The classic story of Peter Pan has aged well, as has its star, the legendary Cathy Rigby, who took her first trip to Never Land in 1990 and was nominated for a Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her efforts. The one time Olympic gymnast fell in love with the role and she has racked up a pretty impressive amount of frequent flyer miles, flying over 3,000 times as the boy who refused to grow up. Playing a limited engagement now through November 25, Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan, shimmers with fairy dust, magic and wonder.
Hodges and Hodges flew into the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts with high expectations for Peter Pan and we were not disappointed.
Peter Pan has got to be one of my favorite fantasy characters of all time. His child-like imagination and love of adventure epitomize what it is to be young and Cathy Rigby portrayed this in a very honest and sincere way. Although Rigby will be 60 next month, she portrayed a little boy wonderfully and her energy was that of a much younger person. I’ve always felt that the main purpose of Peter Pan was to get adults to remember and reclaim their youth. Because of this, it was an honor and a privilege to watch Cathy Rigby on stage and even at my young age of twenty-four, I re-lived my carefree youth through her. That being said – during the big dance numbers when Rigby danced with the lost boys or the Indians, although she had amazing energy, the difference in oomph was just . . . ever so apparent. It just kept picking away at my mind and yet . . . somehow her actual age made her character more endearing because of the nature of Peter Pan; that inner child in all of us that tells us to have fun and not worry about the future. She was wonderful to watch and I can’t wait to see her again.
Nick, you said that very well. She was simply amazing. But just for fun, if the show ever gets another Broadway revival, I’d like to see a teen male playing the role. One of my favorite things was finding out how Tinker Bell got her name. She’s called “Tinker” because she mends all the fairy’s pots and kettles. In all these years I never caught that before. What did you think of the dancing?
The Indians in the show were a highlight for me. All the dancing was good but theirs was exceptional. Originally choreographed by Jerome Robbins, choreographer Patti Colombo created movements that were very fluid, delicate, and at the same time, masculine and the movements were altogether very beautiful. Along with the tom-tom drums my heart beat hard during the song “Ugg-a-Wugg” which was the show-stopper. Although Tiger Lily was not what I had imagined (being a little too Caucasian for someone playing a Native American), Jenna Wright did an amazing job at portraying this character.
Wright was a highlight for me as was the “Ugg-a-Wugg” number which opened Act II. Enemies Tiger Lily and Peter Pan have each saved each other’s lives so now they are friends. “Let’s make two tribes into one” declares Peter and so the celebratory Ugg-a-Wugg begins. The entire cast carries out this raucous number with joy and a lot of talent. It is absolutely fabulous. I enjoyed watching the youngest cast member hold her own with all her adult cast members. Her name is Julia Massey and she plays Michael Darling.
I found the pirates very entertaining – as long as I listened to them as if I was watching an opera – and by that I mean that I could tell what emotions they were feeling but I could not understand the lyrics. There was no annunciation and the only pirate I could understand was Captain Hook, played by Brent Barrett. He had some amazingly witty lines and was very funny to watch on stage.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the swaggering braggadocio of Brent Barrett as Captain Hook (and Mr. Darling). He and Peter sing two songs that mirror each other. In “Hook’s Waltz” the captain sings an ode to himself as the “greatest villain of all time,” while Peter sings, “I’m just the cleverest fellow/twas ever my fortune to know.” Both of them are a bit full of themselves, to say the least, contributing to the feeling on a lot of women’s part that the male species in general has a hard time growing up!