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An Advocate play review: Saugus 10-year-old gives impressive debut while “Peter and the Starcatcher” performs to sold-out theater crowd

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  Dodging the rain, looking forward to a play, a friend and I arrived at the Saugus American Legion Post #210 at 44 Taylor St. to see “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a play by Rick Elise based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The American Legion is also the home of our Saugus theater company.

  Our plan had been reduced to being mere “walk ins” to a sold-out play. We soon found the Theatre Company of Saugus staff to be welcoming, so we stuck around chatting in-between reserved guests shaking off drops. After everyone was seated, and just as we were stepping towards the exit door, there were two cancellations… moments later our hands held the programs… Showtime!

  I began observing scenery: Although sparse it was creative; later in the play would show just how creative… There were scenes in which the “boy” was tossed over sea to audio effects and two actors waving billowing blue curtains, which became majestic sea waves that seemed to swallow the boy as he helplessly awaited rescue. The play’s scenery proved to be like that little black dress that allows the pearls to shine, and these fine actors were the captivating pearls that shone that night!

  There were two Saugonians in this play: Mariah Mulcahy, who played “Smee” (Stache’s First mate & sidekick) – Mariah is quite the comedian without even trying – and a debut actor, Mels Phelon, who played “young boy.” I was amazed at Mels’ professionalism for his role. He took his role seriously and played his part with the maturity of an adult.

  I inquired with Larry Segal, who is the President of the Theatre Company of Saugus, and he revealed, “The little boy was played by Mels Phelon. This is his first adult show; he was in our summer Youth Theatre Workshop shows in 2022 and 2021. He is the child of Saugonian Vanessa Phelon, who is the costumer/hair/make-up designer for ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’”

  Mels played in the flashback scenes of the boy/Peter. Larry thoughtfully had Mels’s Mom email me to give further details of her son. Here are some of the additional facts Vanessa emailed: “Mel is 10 years old he is in 4th grade at Belmonte STEAM Academy and this was his first Main Stage production.”

  This was a thoroughly rehearsed play with actors/actresses adding flair, enthusiasm and personalities to their character. Watching Michael Mazzone’s performance as he slowly unraveled how the “boy” became “Peter Pan” was compelling. Black Stache played by Kaleigh Ryan owned the character! Armed with perpetual gestures and motions, Kaleigh used every ounce of her being to portray her part and clearly showed she enjoyed her role with such enthusiasm.

  D’Shyla Hodge, with many added nuances, played the characters Mrs. Bumbrake and Sanchez. Upon previously viewing D’Shyla Hodge’s characters in several different Saugus plays, it’s recognizable she has stage presence. This play was the first time I heard talented D’Shyla’s melodic, gifted singing. D’Shyla appears to be a rising star with the “It factor.”

  The play was enjoyable and the last showing was the May 21 Sunday Matinee.

  Larry Segal shared this additional information: “We got started in 1968 and we are now in our 54th season. Our next project is our annual summer Youth Theatre Workshop. We are doing two shows: the younger kids will present Wizard of Oz Jr. during July 28-30 the older kids will present Shrek Jr. during Aug 18-20. The next main show will be Little Shop of Horrors, performing during the last week in October and first week in Nov. Our website is https://tcsaugus.org/”

  Editor’s Note: Saugus resident Joanie Allbee is a local artist and frequent contributor to The Saugus Advocate. She is an author and longtime writer of articles for various publications – also known as “The Sketch Artist.

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