Cathy Rigby Soars in National Tour of Peter Pan

When Cathy Rigby first flew onstage, the audience burst into applause and a young boy cried out, “It’s Peter Pan!’

The wonder and delight that the child expressed was shared by the entire audience that night, even if they did not express it in the same manner.

The 100th anniversary production of the musical Peter Pan, which is currently touring the country, tells the classic story of the boy who would not grow up and his adventures in Neverland with the Darling children. Starring Rigby in her farewell performance, it was a fun-filled spectacle of music and adventures. Complete with lush, colorful sets, fanciful costumes and dazzling special effects, the show was a fun night for children and adults alike.

The play begins with a scene of domestic simplicity with the Darling children getting ready for bed. They are soon visited by Peter Pan, who teachers them to fly and entreats them to return with him to Neverland. They eagerly agree and fly off into the night.

After arriving in Neverland, they are swept up in the adventures with Peter and the lost Boys, quickly forgetting their lives in London. Once reminded of home, however, they begin to miss what they have left behind. They must chose whether to remain children in Neverland or to return to their families and eventually grow up.

The show is classic and timeless, having been told for one hundred years. Yet, this production was fresh and fun. The secret to its success was the performances of the cast. Each member shone brilliantly, delivering delightful performances.

Rigby has been playing the role of Peter Pan for over a decade, earning a Tony nomination for it on Broadway as well was starring in the National Tour in 1991, the revival in 1998, and the A&E television special in 1999. She delivers so much excitement and energy into her performance, however, that it gives the audience the feeling that this is the first time she has ever done it.

A former Olympic gymnast, Rigby’s physical strength is executed throughout the play as she flies across the stage, spinning and flipping with ease. She performs Peter’s songs robustly, singing, “I Gotta Crow” and “I’m Flying” with boyish delight, as well as showing a softer side to Peter with “Neverland” and “Distant Melody,” revealing the downside of being a lost boy with no mother.

Howard McGillin has double duty in this production, playing both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. Although he seems a bit stiff and pretentious as the head of the London household, he is deliciously delightful as the villain in Neverland. His deep, rich voice is perfect for Hook’s tango and tarantella songs, during which he plots the downfall of Peter Pan, as well as his wicked waltz, which delights in his villainy.

His presence is powerful and he executes it well, controlling the comedic aspects of a role that could easily be overplayed. His counterpart, Smee (Patrick Richwood), is perfect as the bumbling fool sidekick. As the shy pirate, Richwood is awkward, clumsy, and eager to please, adding a comic relief to Hook’s most evil moments.

While the lead performances are stunning, every cast member is given chances to show his/her talents. The Darling children are perfectly sweet and innocent, and Suzanne Guyot’s Tiger Lily is brave and strong. The company of Lost Boys and Indians showcase their dancing skills throughout the show, especially in “Ugg-a-Wug,” which is one of the true highlights of the night. Energetic, athletic dancing, featuring various acrobatic stunts by Rigby and Guyot, as well as drum performances, combine to form a show-stopping number. But many of these numbers are performed close together or even back-to-back, giving the show moments of feeling rushed and hurried.

The performance was set to beautiful scenery. The settings of Neverland were truly magical, with elaborate paintings and magical images to enhance the feeling of a fairyland. The pirate ship, mermaid’s lagoon and lots boys’ cave were all beauty imagined.

Peter Pan left the audience with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. The show was haunting and bittersweet. Its lighthearted tale of childish adventures with pirates and Indians paired with the darker undertones reminds us that childhood does not last forever and we al must grow up sometime.

The play embodies the true meaning of Peter Pan – the spirit and joy of childhood pleasures and living in the moment. After watching Rigby soar over the audience, a grin on her face and fairy dust in her hand, you wish you could fly off with her, “second star to the right and straight on ’till morning” to Neverland.

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