BWW Interviews: Rod Roberts Talks About PETER PAN & Houston's Local Talent
As consumerism ruled the streets of Houston on Friday, November 23, 2012, the cast of PETER PAN was preparing for a six show weekend in San Jose, California. PETER PAN, with Cathy Rigby back in the titular role by popular demand, is known for being a fun-filled, family friendly extravaganza. The current tour is headed to Houston and will open at Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) on December 11, 2012. To get more information about the show, like the casting of local Houston youth in the production, I chatted with the Dance Captain, Rod Roberts.
Me: PETER PAN will cast 10 local children for its run in Houston. What was the impetus for that idea?
Rod Roberts: They have a great performing arts school for kids [The Humphreys School of Musical Theatre], and in cooperation with the school that we decided we could add some of the kids from the school because they've got a lot of talent there. They had auditions last week or two weeks ago. I wasn't actually able to be there, but they picked 10 kids I believe, 10 or 12, and we're going to add them in any time The Lost Boys are on stage. They're really talented kids too. I just worked at TUTS in March, doing ANNIE, and we used 17 little girls from the school. They were all very professional kids—some of the most professional kids I have ever worked with and very talented.
Me: In your opinion, what is the benefit of using local children in the show?
Rod: Actually, from a business perspective it obviously drums up more business because the kids invite their families, but it also gets more interest into the theatre I think. People who might not necessarily have come to see the show are going to come see their nieces, nephews, or whoever might be in the show, you know. It opens up a whole new door to them, I think.
Me: PETER PAN will be in Houston this holiday season. What makes it such a good holiday show?
Rod: I think—it doesn't necessarily have a Christmas theme in it—but the whole feeling of family and wanting to be with your family...[Pauses]...It's more or less just about the family, how strong the family unit is, and not taking that for granted. It really is about having a strong family and loving who you are with. And, if you want to look at it a different way, you can make a family out of anyone. Like, The Lost Boys aren't necessarily related, but they actually consider themselves to be a family unit, if that makes any sense.
Me: This is your second time through Houston with the show. Are there any changes that audiences who have seen the show can expect?
Rod: It is pretty much the same show, but we've incorporated, in the flying of the show, more of the elements from the DVD, which means the flying sequences are a little more spectacular, I think. We've kind of rechoreographed some of them, and our fly guy, Paul Rubin, is who choreographs those and flies Cathy [Rigby] as well, has redone a few of those things. And we've also added, as part of Neverland, silks. Silks [for aerial acrobatics] come down, and Tiger Lily starts off on that. Other than that, it's pretty much the same show. But actually the talent... I've done several incarnations of this show, and this is a very strong cast, as far as I'm concerned. Everyone is incredibly talented. Everyone brings something different to the show, and, I think, we've gotten really great reviews with this version as well. I think that audiences are going to be able to tell a difference, and I think they're going to be happy.
Me: What is your favorite aspect of the show?
Rod: I like a lot about the show. Basically, I'm not in the show every night. I'm the Dance Captain and Swing, which means I cover, I understudy, all the guys in the show. So, if someone is sick, injured, or something, I go on for them. When I go out there, I like the aspect that, as one of the guys in the show, you're always doing something different. In one scene you're a pirate. In the next scene you're an Indian. You're switching back and forth. You're not just an Indian or a pirate in the show, you're actually doing both. A lot of people are surprised by that; that we're able to do that. It makes it more exciting for the performer to be able to do different things, you know. We're always one or the other in scenes. So, I think that's the thing I like about it. You're not just one thing in the entire show.
Me: In the United States, Cathy Rigby has pretty much become a household name. What is it like getting to tour and work with her?