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This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
December 16, 1998. All rights reserved.
Broadway Review: `Peter Pan’
It probably won’t come as a surprise to see Peter Pan
tumble, flip and spin, rather than merely fly through the air at the
Marquis Theater when you consider that author James M. Barrie’s little
boy who won’t grow up is being played by Cathy Rigby. The two-time
Olympic gymnast, and the first American woman to win a medal in the
World Gymnastics competition, has had an impressive post-gymnastics
career in the theater. Of the many roles she has played on the road
or has appeared in at the La Mirada Theater in La Mirada, California,
where she is a co-producer with her husband, no role would seem better
suited to her than Peter Pan.
Rigby follows in the footsteps of such illustrious Peter Pans as Maude
Adams (the 1904 originator), Eva LeGallienne, Jean Arthur (in the
first musical version in 1950 with a score by Leonard Bernstein),
Mary Martin (first in the 1954 musical version), and Sandy Duncan.
To put it succinctly, Rigby is perfect.
The years do not seem to have changed Rigby between her first fly
over Broadway in 1990-’91, with a return engagement in 1991-’92, and
this year’s newly spruced up production. She appears to be as
boyish and entertainingly boisterous as the character she plays. With
her blonde hair in an English bowl cut, her lithe agile body pressed
into something close to perpetual motion, and with a little help from
a regular sprinkling of fairy dust, Rigby is the personification of
heroic youth. Rigby’s solid acting, singing of such hits as
and "I’m Flying," and that includes crowing ("I Gotta
Crow"), and dancing talents are not to be shortchanged. They are
worthy, I would say, of a few more gold medals.
While I am familiar with the score, a mixture of effervescent and
sentimental songs by Moose Charlap and Jule Styne, with lyrics by
Carolyn Leigh and Betty Comden and Adolph Green, my six year-old
Shelby, to my surprise, was just as familiar with the play’s events
and the names of all the characters.
Everyone knows that "Peter Pan" is the story
of the little boy who refused to grow up and who spends his time
villainous pirates and leading a troop of little lost boys in
need of a mother. There is no end to the joys of this musical version
that begins in the nursery of the Darling family’s London townhouse.
It isn’t long before the children’s parents say goodnight and leave
the nursery taking with them Nana, the large protective family dog.
Then strange and wondrous things start to happen.
Children in the audience are always the first to respond to the
light that dances around the darkened room, as bureau drawers
open and shut. "It’s Tinkerbell!" shout more than a few of
the less timid in the audience. That light, of course, is Peter’s
fairy friend whose devotion almost costs her her life. Then there
are the expected squeals of delight and a great burst of applause
as the prankish fun-loving Peter Pan comes flying through the open
nursery windows in search of his lost shadow.
Who can not guess that the three Darling children family will soon
fly out the window with Peter past the second star on the right and
straight on till morning? Under Glenn Casale’s firm direction, the
newly updated adventures in Neverland move swiftly, excitingly, and
generally find the excellent company responding with panache.
It is interesting to note that this version of "Peter Pan"
was originally conceived, directed and choreographed by Jerome
Unlike the other Robbins conception, "On The Town," Casale
and choreographer Patti Colombo have found a way to recharge and
a classic. A notable change is the re-thinking of the song
whose lyrics are now deemed insensitive to Native Americans. Basically
using only the music, Colombo has devised a spirited dance sequence
for the Lost Boys and Indians. As they form an alliance to battle
the pirates, Rigby and the entire ensemble stomp and pound out a
of intricate rhythms on drums. It’s thrilling.
Paul Schoeffler continues the tradition for an actor to play both
the stern Mr. Darling and the smarmy Captain Hook. Aside from enjoying
Schoeffler’s resounding baritone voice, it is his flamboyant display
of unctuous elan that is most memorable. That it attracts the
of his nemesis, that ticking crocodile, is no wonder. Also doubling
is Dana Solimando, whose presence as the Darling’s demure housekeeper
is soon transformed into the dazzlingly acrobatic dancing Tiger Lily.
I could not think of better escorts from Victorian London to Neverland
than Elisa Sagardia, Chase Kniffen, and Drake English, who play the
Darling children. Kudos to designers John Iacovelli (settings),
Yaji (costumes), and Martin Aronstein (lighting) for creating a
world: one that should make you believe in it enough to join Peter,
the Darlings and the lost boys as they sing "I Won’t Grow Up."
— Simon Saltzman
212-307-4100. $25 to $75
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