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At least he is in the Famous Artists presentation called “Cathy Rigby Is Peter Pan,'” which opened on Monday, April 15, in the Crouse Hinds Concert Theater.
A full house audience was delighted by Rigby’s high flying re creation of Peter in the musical version of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan stories.
Peter Pan is a hyperactive and maybe hyper imaginative lad of anywhere from six to 10, I’d guess. He leads his band of Lost Boys through wild adventures in Never Land.
He is tough, resourceful, fair minded and always ready for challenges, whether they’re from Captain Hook and his pirate crew, or Tiger Lily and her band of braves.
And, oh, he can fly. And if you’re in the right frame of mind, he can teach you to fly, too.
When Rigby was in her teens, she captured gymnastic fame in the Olympics and elsewhere. She is now 60, but even when her harness is not attached to the flying wires, her moves create the illusion of someone made to fly, and ready to take off in an instant.
Once aloft, she’s incredible. Peter zooms high and low at speed, doing backward and forward flips, plus horizontal spins that defy description. These aren’t just acrobatic stunts. They’re Peter, caught up in his delight at living the moment.
And other wonderful things mark Rigby’s portrayal of Peter.
She catches not only Peter’s fierce independence, but his simultaneous wistfulness at not having a mother, someone to tell him stories. In fact, he was drawn to the Darlings’ home by Mrs. Darling telling her children stories.
So when young Wendy Darling agrees to go to Neverland with Peter, he knows he’s got a good thing going. Wendy will be his mother and the Lost Boys will get to hear her tell stories.
Barrie’s story is whimsical,
to be sure, and Rigby catches that to the fullest. But she also catches the story’s sharp poignancy about the costs of either losing youth and innocence, or of refusing to grow up.
Rigby does other admirable things. Her own vitality is at the heart of the show, but she puts her fellow actors fully into the spotlight.
Brent Barrett is a dweeb of a husband, but when as is customary he turns into the ruthless Captain Hook, he lifts the show to fresh levels of comedy.
In the red coat, pantaloons, long black curls and plumed hat of a 17th century dandy and with a shiny hook instead of a hand Hook leads his crew of ruthless but hapless pirates on endless missions against Peter.
He also leads them in hilarious musical numbers like “A Princely Scheme” and “Hook’s Waltz.”
Smee (James Leo Ryan) is Hook’s groveling, mistreated stooge.
Krista Buccellato’s Wendy is a sensible middle class English girl who looks after her younger brothers, but she is still open to fantasy. When Peter can’t make his shadow stick to him, she does the practical thing: she sews it onto his heels.
Jenna Wright as Tiger Lily dances up a storm. At the opening of act two, there’s a little dancing with a sort of arm jive, but it swiftly gathers momentum and turns into “Ugg a Wugg,” a huge, rollicking production number that includes Peter and Tiger Lily hammering out rhythms on a tree stump.
I have one problem with the production. At least in the section where I was sitting, the speaker system tended to muddle words, especially in the songs. I would hope that something can be done about that at successive performances.
Sets are attractive and picturesque, ranging from the comfortable looking nursery of the Darling home, to the underground home of Peter and the boys, and Hook’s ship complete with cabin, quarterdeck, mast and crow’s nest.
Not long after Rigby and the cast took their curtain calls to a standing ovation, she was in the crowded lobby at a desk. She was signing posters and accepting donations for her favorite charity, Discovery Arts, which brings the arts to children suffering from life threatening illnesses.