"Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan." She doesn't just play Peter Pan. She is Peter Pan. After so many years of bringing J.M. Barrie's classic character to life on stage, it becomes difficult to separate the two. Rigby, herself, couldn't stay away from the character for too long. Despite a 2004-2005 tour labeled as Rigby's farewell, she returned to the role for another national tour, which opened at Sacramento's Community Theatre Wednesday night.
The production keeps many of the original set designs and concepts, while downsizing on a few things to optimize space. The production also adds a few new elements to the already magical musical, including some Cirque du Soleil Style Indian aerial bits.
Nothing has changed on Rigby's part, however. She flies across the auditorium and stage as amazing and agile as ever - her gymnastic background fully on display. Despite her senior age, Rigby is a child at heart, especially on stage.
The whimsical Peter Pan and fairy Tinker Bell whisk Wendy Darling (Krista Buccellato) and her brothers John and Michael (Lexy Baeza and alternating Julia Massey and Sophie Sooter) to Neverland where they and the lost boys face the ultimate villain, Captain Hook (Brent Barrett), and his gang of pirates.
The mostly-new cast brings new life to the production with its unique take on familiar characters, but disappoint audiences familiar with older productions of the musical, particularly the A&E recording. Key lines miss their rhythmic, melodramatic inflections, and the actors rush through the show, hurting the cast's comedic timing. The audience misses many of the best lines.
Still, it's Peter Pan. It's Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan. And it's impossible to deny the show's charm with all its delightful treats. Hook loves his tango and tarantella. The lost boys declare they'll never grow up. And when Rigby flies, the thrill heightens. Children new to the production gasp in awe and adults familiar with the story bask in fond memories.
Through December 30