BWW Interviews: Cathy Rigby Takes Final Flight as 'PETER PAN'
Performances and Tickets:
April 23-28, Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont Street, Boston; tickets are priced from $38.75-$89.75 and are available online at www.citicenter.org or by calling 866-348-9738.
Cathy Rigby has been a cultural icon ever since becoming the first American woman to win a medal in the World Gymnastics Championships at the age of 17. A two-time U.S. National Gymnastics Champion and the highest-scoring American gymnast in the 1968 Summer Olympics, Rigby almost single-handedly popularized the sport in America - a sport previously dominated by Eastern Europeans.
Today, the seemingly ageless Rigby (she is now 60 years young) has become synonymous with yet another ageless cultural icon: the boy who won't grow up, Peter Pan. Her very first outing in the role was in 1974, at the age of 20, in a theater in the round. Since then she has performed in many musicals, including The Wizard of Oz, Annie Get Your Gun, Meet Me in St. Louis, Paint Your Wagon, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Seussical the Musical on Broadway in 2002. But none have defined her as Peter Pan has. For the past 23 years, the Tony Award-nominated actress has been "flying, flying, flying, flying, way up high, in the sky" on tour, on Broadway, and in an Emmy Award-winning A&E movie version that is, thankfully, available on DVD.
The current touring production, the Carolyn Leigh/Moose Charlap musical adaptation based on the James M. Barrie play with additional music and lyrics by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, is a spectacular adventure that features dazzling sets, colorful costumes, intricate lighting and special effects that are at once eye-popping and fanciful. The tour co-stars Brent Barrett as Mr. Darling/Captain Hook and Kim Crosby as Mrs. Darling. It is once again directed by Glenn Casale, Tony Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director of the 1999 Broadway revival and television special. Flying sequences are choreographed by "The Fly Guy," Paul Rubin.
In a recent telephone interview with BroadwayWorld.com, Rigby shared her thoughts about bringing this important chapter in her life and career to an end. She credits Peter with helping her grow as a person and actress, growing up perhaps, but certainly never growing old.
Excerpts from that conversation follow:
BWW: I understand that this is your farewell tour and Boston is going to be your last stop.
Cathy: Yes, it is the very last stop and an end to an important part of my career. I have done many shows but I've done Peter Pan for more than 35 years. It's interesting because Boston is actually where we started our touring. It was at the Colonial Theater in 1989. We had planned just a three-month tour, but as it happened the lead reviewer in Boston, Kevin Kelly, gave us a rave. He ended up giving us two years on that first tour! So it's amazing to be coming back to Boston, especially at such a difficult time for the city. I'm just happy to be bringing something to children that's a little hopeful and positive. I'm so sorry for what has happened to your city.
BWW: Thank you. It's nice that you are looking forward to bringing some joy back to people. That's one of the things that theater can do, isn't it?
Cathy: Sure! This past year I've done the show for a charity I'm involved with called Discovery Arts, and when I go out into the lobby after the show I sign posters and sprinkle some fairy dust on the kids. I've met more people from all walks of life, kids and families with physical or mental challenges, who come by and make donations. When the kids get their fairy dust they show this indomitable spirit and hopefulness. I think children in general believe that anything is possible. Like Peter, they believe that the world is a great place and that they can do anything. That spirit is probably the greatest gift I take away from doing this show.