When I was a child I spent hours wearing down the VHS tape I had of Mary Martin doing a live theatrical performance of Peter Pan. I was mesmerized by the flickering light of Tinker Bell, and the way the character of Peter Pan flew about the Darling’s nursery with such grace and magic. Many years later, despite the warnings from Pan, I am now grown up. No longer the child that stayed up watching my own windowsill hoping to catch a glimpse of the ageless boy in green, I wondered if The Pantages’ production of Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan would still hold the same sense of enchantment for me.
As the initial tinkle of sound from the orchestra grew into the powerful first song, and the stage opened up on to the Darling children running around, playing with each other and their dog Nana, I was immediately hooked. While they jumped on their beds and begged their mother to tell them a story I began to remember everything I loved about this show. A few scenes later, when Cathy Rigby burst through the larger than life doors into the nursery, the audience cheered and for a moment I think we were all just as enthralled as the young children scattered throughout the audience.
Rigby did an absolutely amazing job as Pan in all respects. Though she is a 60-year-old woman, she somehow managed to seamlessly portray the attitude of the childlike boy with a real knack for channeling his inner restless spirit. Fidgeting, bouncing around each scene, and sporting expressions that are the trademark of young daring boys- boredom or brave defiance- she was the perfect Pan. As the recipient of eight gold medals for gymnastics, Rigby’s physical pliability and extensive experience allowed her to fly and turn and climb and twirl with truly amazing, gripping choreography directed by Paul Rubin (who also directed the flying sequences for Broadway’s Wicked).
Though Rigby clearly stole the show, Brent Barrett also did a great job as playing both the loving father, Mr. Darling, and the swashbuckling scoundrel, Captain Hook. As well, Jenna Wright was an outstanding Tiger Lily, incorporating fantastic ballet influences and fluid movements in her performance. Directed by Glenn Casale, a resident of the California Musical Theatre where he has directed over 550 shows, this particular production was infused with everything that makes Peter Pan such a great story: wonder, excitement and adventure.
Adding to the air of magic last night were the sets. Each part of the island of Never Never Land was constructed with the utmost care and attention to every minute detail. From Hook’s giant wooden pirate ship, to the Lost Boy’s underground home, every element contributed to the captivating story. Against these backdrops, Rigby and her supporting cast sang classic songs like “I’m Flying,” “I Gotta Crow,” and “I Won’t Grow Up,” as they fought against pirates, showered themselves in sparkling pixie dust and made peace with Tiger Lily’s Indians.
This was the first time Peter Pan had returned to the Pantages in eight years, but as both Pan and the show last night proved, no matter how much time passes, you can always come home.
Look out for our in depth story on the history of the Pantages Theatre in LATF The Magazine’s upcoming February issue.
By: Darianne Dobbie