BWW Reviews: Cathy Rigby Flies Back to Neverland as PETER PAN
Something truly magical is happening right now in the city of La Mirada. There you'll see a dog be a nanny to three precocious children, laugh at a wicked pirate who's deathly afraid of a crocodile, marvel at a sassy little pixie fairy with a bad attitude, and be enthralled by an ageless boy...who can, by gosh, fly.
But what's even more magical is that former Olympic gymnast/actress/Tony nominee Cathy Rigby is there crowing in the midst of it all, where she's once again playing the boy who won't grow up. Armed with green tights, a slightly lowered voice, and an endless supply of pixie dust, Rigby is back performing the title role in the ubiquitous, family-friendly stage musical PETER PAN, now playing through June 24 at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (the show will then launch into another multi-city national tour following this sit-down engagement beginning at the Fox Performing Arts Center June 29).
It's staggering to realize that Rigby (seemingly ageless herself) first took on the part way back in 1990 during its much-lauded Broadway Revival. Almost 22—yes, 22—years after earning a Tony nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for playing this very same role, the ever-so vigorous Rigby looks about as spunky and acrobatic as she's ever been (how many 59 year olds do you know who can soar, tumble and do high-speed summersaults mid-air while sprinkling pixie dust and belting out a tune?). In this show, that alone is really a sight to behold.
But aside from the jaw-droppingly good aerial wire work she fearlessly partakes in at each performance, Rigby is actually quite a wonderful comic actor as well, when both of her feet are planted firmly on the ground. She's got those child-like mannerisms well-mastered by now, naturally, and audiences will no doubt find her take on Peter a charming one, especially when interacting with her equally-great co-stars which include Broadway vet Brent Barrett as Captain Hook.
As for the show itself—herewith touted as an "all new" production—this particular PETER PAN is buoyant, colorful and utterly enchanting. From its visually arresting set designs (by John Iacovelli) and impressive costumes (by Shigeru Yaji), the show bursts with vivid, technicolor pop. Children, especially, will love the show's somewhat Disney-esque qualities, from the Darling's nursery, to Hook's pirate ship, to the Lost Boy's underground homestead, to the eerie darkness of the mermaid lagoon. There's nothing quite like hearing the sound of children reacting to and enjoying the theater.
There's a beautiful, otherworldly escapist quality to the show that really permeates. And once the show erupts into a wildly exuberant, full-on Indians-and-Lost Boys Dance-A-Thon at the top of the second act, you'll be wanting to book a stay at Neverland yourself (well, this fictional Neverland anyway, not the infamous one in Los Olivos, CA).
The story, of course, is no doubt familiar to almost everyone who has ever heard of this well-known character. Adapted from J.M. Barrie's timeless classic, this specific show finds Peter and his trusty whirling dervish of a sidekick Tinkerbell invading the Darling's nursery one night in search of his missing shadow.
Wendy (Krista Buccellato), the eldest of the Darling children, takes pity on the mysterious stranger when he fails in getting it to stick back on, and offers to sew his shadow on for him. Meeting success in her more practical method, he asks if Wendy would be willing to be his and his fellow friends' "mother" where she can tell the same intriguing tales he has been eavesdropping on nightly just outside the window of the nursery. She, of course, agrees without much hesitation.
Thus begins an awfully big adventure as Peter coaxes Wendy and her brothers John (Cade Canon Ball) and Michael (Julia Massey) to whisk off to Neverland—by flying, of course—to meet the Lost Boys and to fight off their wicked nemesis Captain Hook.
A really well-executed production, this PETER PAN features some beautifully-choreographed dances courtesy of Patti Colombo to go along with the mesmerizing flying sequences choreographed by Paul Rubin. The palpable, infectious joy projected by the cast, of course, also helps bring all of this magic to fruition.
Along with impressive performances from Rigby and Barrett, other standouts include the radiant Kim Crosby as Mrs. Darling and the laugh-riot James Leo Ryan as Hook's main lackey Smee. Wendy, Massey and Ball as the Darling children are all adorably superb, as are the Lost Boys, particularly Dane Wagner as Slightly Soiled. Jenna Wright's super-flexible Tiger Lily is also praise-worthy. And two can't-miss, hulking figures make memorable, hysterical appearances as pirates in the cast: Michael A. Shepperd and Sam Zeller. Seeing these two against the mostly pint-sized cast brings an added amusing treat.
If you've ever wanted to make the journey to the second star to the right, this charming musical production of PETER PAN will more than fulfill that need. With laudable production values, lovely music, and a joy-filled cast, the show will revive your child-like spirit. Seeing the show's star soar with an endless trail of pixie dust is reason enough to go. And, by the way, seeing her name above the title is no mere boast—because, after seeing this musical's current iteration, you really will believe that Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan.
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Photos from the McCoy Rigby Entertainment presentation of Cathy Rigby IS PETER PAN by Isaac James Creative. From top: Peter Pan (Cathy Rigby) flies above the Darling nursery; the Darling children fly to Neverland; Captain Hook (Brent Barrett) makes a declaration; Peter Pan dances with the Lost Boys.
Performances of PETER PAN at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in La Mirada, CA continue through Sunday, June 24, 2012. The production will then embark on a new national tour starting at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside, CA, June 29 – July 1, 2012.
The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard. Parking is free. The Fox Performing Arts Center is located at 3801 Mission Inn Avenue in Riverside.
For tickets to the remaining La Mirada shows, visit www.LaMiradaTheatre.com or call (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310. For Tickets to the Riverside engagement, call 951-779-9800 or any TicketMaster outlet.
For more information, visit CathyRigbyisPeterPan.com.