Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

Returning to the Place Dreams are Born: Cathy Rigby takes off once again as “Peter Pan”

by Frances Baum Nicholson

I can remember the first time I saw Cathy Rigby as “Peter Pan,” back in the early 90s. Although the miracle of television had ingrained Mary Martin’s version in my mind as a child, Rigby brought something new. A former gymnast, she truly knew how to move like a boy. She could sing well enough to carry all those memorable songs, and it worked. Not surprisingly she was nominated for a Tony for the part in 1991.

Now Rigby has returned to the part, as she has several times in between. Currently at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, she still has the moves, swooping about on a rig far more sophisticated than Martin’s original, and she can dance and horse about with boyish enthusiasm. Age only shows in her singing voice, compensated for on a few occasions by turning solos into duets.

By now everyone knows the story, right? Rigby plays Peter Pan, the boy who won’t grow up. He descends upon the Victorian nursery of the Darling family, and takes their three children back to his home in Neverland, particularly Wendy to be a mother to “the lost boys.” On his island packed with adventure, the three children and Peter contend with Indians, mermaids, and pirates. All the while, Mr. and Mrs. Darling and their dog-nanny Nana wait, hoping for their children’s eventual return.

The production around Rigby proves first-rate. Brent Barrett makes a terrific Captain Hook. Jenna Wright proves impressive as the dancing Indian princess Tiger Lily. James Leo Ryan has a ball with the obsequious first mate, Mr. Smee, and Krista Buccellato, Cade Canon Ball and Julia Massey make delightful and animated work of the Darling children Peter whisks away. Glenn Casale’s direction is tight and often funny. Patti Colombo’s elaborate, exhausting dance numbers are handled with amazing ease by a very talented ensemble.

In other words, it all works. Well paced and very active, it captures an audience, young or old, from start to finish. Even the applause necessary for Tinker Bell’s return (a rather better Tinker Bell than many productions) is instant and heartfelt. Rigby’s boyish mugging proves engaging too, and brings a necessary childlike quality to it all.

Indeed, the only rough spots have appeared at the hands of the stage crew, which had some very amateurish moments, at least on the press opening: pulling the wrong cord on the various curtains and drops more than once, and becoming startlingly noisy backstage during the very last, gentle and intimate scene – a scene upon which they dropped the final curtain too soon.

The only other questionable item, as mentioned before, proves to be Rigby’s voice: roughly boyish when speaking, but equally rough when trying to sing the show’s comparatively lyrical musical numbers. In comparison with Buccallato’s Wendy and Kim Crosby’s Mrs. Darling, whose equally lyrical moments prove comparatively lilting, it becomes an issue on occasion. For now much can be covered by making musical adjustments, but it is a troubling sign.

Still, this is the “Peter Pan” to take your kids, or your grandkids to. Colorful, action-packed, funny and touching by turns, it has all the elements which have captivated children all the way back to J.M. Barrie’s original. For the rest of us there is always something alluring in the idea of being able to stay childlike forever, and the grown-up Wendy’s admission “I can’t go with you Peter. I’m ever so much more than 20,” can still elicit a momentary sigh.

What: “Peter Pan” When: Through June 24, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, wiht 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday Where: La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada How Much: $35 – $50 Info: (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or http://www.lamiradatheatre.com

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