Let “Peter and the Starcatcher” actor Nick Vannoy teach you how to (stage) fight
As chaotic as they can appear, onstage fights are carefully choreographed sequences of action and reaction.
The Rep’s next Mainstage show, Peter and the Starcatcher, has fanciful combat aplenty, with fiendish pirates squaring off against plucky heroes in a series of inventive showdowns. But how do the actors make these fight sequences work while maintaining the highest levels of safety?
To answer that question, we sat down with Peter and the Starcatcher actor and fight captain Nick Vannoy. He walked us through the basics of stage combat, and what they looked like when applied to the action in this show. Peter opens December 2! (Tickets here).
Meet the cast for our next show, the magical “Peter and the Starcatcher”
Come on down and meet the jolly crew for The Rep’s December production of Peter and the Starcatcher! They’ve set sail on a two-month voyage that culminates in a performance run December 2-27.
We couldn’t think of a better group to bring this swashbuckling prequel to Peter Pan to life. The winner of five 2012 Tony Awards, Peter and the Starcatcher combines high seas adventure with absurdist humor and wordplay, resulting in a show that the entire family can love. Along the way, we meet all of the major characters of the Peter Pan universe, but re-imagined through a spirited retelling from Rick Elice (Jersey Boys), based off the book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
About: A St. Louis native, Spencer has worked his way onto Broadway stages and national production tours. Local credits The Muny, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Stages St. Louis. He made his Broadway debut with the Old Vic’s 2013 revival of The Winslow Boy.
About: Regional credits include Actors Theatre of Louisville (A Christmas Carol), Curious Theatre Company (End Days, Rabbit Hole and Up) and the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane (Romeo and Juliet). New York credits include work with The Brick Theater’s Democracy Festival and The Jam at New Georges. He holds a BA in theatre from Tulane University.
About: Favorite regional credits include A Christmas Carol (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Much Ado About Nothing (MaineStage Shakespeare) and As You Like It (Illinois Shakespeare Festival). He recently graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in acting.
About: Jeffrey is an actor of stage, screen, TV, radio, and video games. He started as an athlete in high school and slowly left the locker rooms for the dressing rooms. His television credits include roles in Blue Bloods, Elementary and Masters of Sex.
About: He has appeared in the national tours of Saturday Night Fever (Gus) and Fame —The Musical (Joe Vegas). Regional credits include Evita (Ché), Reefer Madness (Jack/Jesus) and Side Show (Roustabout Theater). A Los Angeles native now living in New York, Mr. Restrepo is a graduate of American Academy of Dramatic Arts/West. He’s also an accomplished theatre teacher, having worked with emerging artists for more than 15 years.
as Bill Slank/Fighting Prawn
About: Arturo was recognized in The New Yorker for his portrayal of Tano in the world premiere of Hit the Wall, produced by The Inconvenience and Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. His solo show You Don’t Know My Life, Ni Mi Madre premiered at several theatre festivals around Chicago and at Barrow Street Theatre in New York City. He works as a teaching artist at various schools and organizations in Chicago and New York.
About: Regional credits include The Three Musketeers at Cincinnati Playhouse, and the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s prestigious Acting Apprentice Company. He is a Lexington, Kentucky, native who studied theatre at Northern Kentucky University.
Natalie Morgan Fisher
as Grempkin/Mack/Sanchez/Hawking Clam
About: A student at the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts, this is Natalie’s Rep debut!
The British Subjects
as Molly Aster
About: Betsy performed in the original Broadway production of Peter and the Starcatcher, along with Broadway productions of The Crucible and Fiddler on the Roof. Screen credits include an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the 2007 indie comedy Rocket Science.
as Lord Leonard Aster
About: Clinton made his Broadway debut in Master Class at the Manhattan Theatre Club, reprising his performance from The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Recent theatre credits include Charlie in Stones in His Pockets at Center Stage in Baltimore and Tom in The Glass Menagerie at Everyman Theatre. He appeared as a photographer in an episode of House of Cards and scored an uncredited role as a youngster in The Exorcist III.
as Mrs. Bumbrake/Teacher
About: While this is Andy’s Rep debut (hooray!), he’s also appeared locally in Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2013 production of Twelfth Night. That’s in addition to regional theatre productions in just about every corner of the country!
as Captain Robert Falcon Scott
About: A student at the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts, this is Jesse’s Rep debut!
Bringing this five-time Tony Award-winning play to life on The Rep stage will be an enormous undertaking, but we’ve got a crew of steady and sure hands to steer this particular ship.
Here’s what we learned:
1.) Original co-author Ridley Pearson could not be more thrilled about this show. Ridley lives in St. Louis, not too far from The Rep. Even so, it was a pleasant surprise to see him on hand for the first rehearsal. While visiting, he shared the genesis of Peter with our cast and crew. It started with Ridley reading Peter Pan at bedtime to his then 5-year-old daughter Paige. Early on in the story, she asked him, “How did Peter Pan meet Captain Hook, anyway?” And lo, the seed for a best-selling book was planted, co-written with humorist Dave Barry. In 2012, after years of workshopping, that book became a Broadway musical. Now the story of Peter and the Starcatcher continues in St. Louis!
2.) It’s a family affair. During his talk to the cast and crew, Ridley mentioned “the Peter and the Starcatcher family,” which has grown with each production of the show. Actors and production teams fall in love with this show the same way that audiences do. Many continue to return to it, again and again. That family mentality is evidenced in the cast for The Rep’s production: seven of the 12 cast members appeared together in the Cincinnati Playhouse production of the show, and nearly the entire creative staff from that endeavor is returning for another journey to Neverland.
3.) Speaking of families — bring yours. Director Blake Robison compares Peter to a great Pixar film: its winking humor and crackling storytelling connect with every age bracket in different ways. So while children will have their fill with the play’s pirate antics and silly setpieces, adults too can feast on its wordplay and thematic resonance.
4.) The score will be cinematic.Peter and the Starcatcher is not a musical, but music plays an important role in fleshing out this version of Neverland. Originally written for one pianist and one percussionist, the score has received some significant expansion thanks to sound designer Matthew M. Nielson, who added orchestrations throughout the piece. “It’s going to sound like you’re listening to a John Williams movie score,” Robison says.
5.) The play celebrates the unique storytelling of live theatre. As we’ve contended before, live theatre sweeps audiences into its storytelling in a way that TV or movies could never hope to replicate. Without giving too much away, we’ll say that Peter and the Starcatcher makes full use of its theatrical environment, playing with sets and costumes in a way that activates audiences’ imaginations.
The Backstage Blog is your chance to...well, go "backstage" at The Rep. We'll be posting all sorts of insider information, about upcoming productions, about the process of bringing a play from the page to the stage, about design challenges and cast conundrums—everything that goes into making a show special. Check back often for the latest updates!