Rigby's flying gets you hooked on new 'Peter Pan'


November 01, 1990|By J. Wynn Rousuck

Cathy Rigby may be the bestest flyingest Peter Pan ever. In the Broadway-bound production that opened at the Mechanic Theatre last night, she dips, she soars, she spins and spins and spins, and all at the highest of heights.

But that won't surprise anyone who watched the former gymnast in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics.

The question is: Does her singing and acting soar?

Ms. Rigby's acting definitely has the joyful spunk to make audiences cheer for the boy who wouldn't grow up. If her singing has more character than lyricism, well, keep in mind that she is playing a boy, not a diva. And she does just fine with songs such as "I've Got to Crow" and "I'm Flying."

Nor does she have to carry this revival of "Peter Pan" on her own. She's assisted by an able band of Indians, lost boys and pirates, particularly Stephen Hanan's deliciously nasty Captain Hook.

More sadistic than his most famous predecessor -- the marvelous, but mincing Cyril Ritchard -- Mr. Hanan's Hook is not your standard-issue villainous pirate; he's a bit unhinged, and he exhibits a suspiciously unhealthy interest in little Wendy, played by an almost unbearably prim and proper Cindy Robinson. Mr. Hanan sacrifices some menace, however, because his words aren't always intelligible.

But the production's only real disappointment is Marilyn Magness' choreography. The larger numbers are overly busy and noisy, so that in "Hook's Waltz" the captain repeatedly gets lost in the shuffle.

Director Fran Soeder, on the other hand, keeps the action moving briskly. And he has restored an unexpectedly dark, but effective scene from the 1904 Sir James M. Barrie play on which the musical is based. Here the threat of Hanan's Hook is realized as Peter Pan is not only wounded, but prepares to die.

A final word on the history of this now-classic musical, which has a score by Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh, and additional songs by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The show has been on Broadway twice before (Ms. Rigby's rendition arrives Dec. 11). The Mary Martin version was broadcast on national television four times and was recently released on videotape, as was the Disney cartoon. There's been an ice skating Peter Pan, and now Steven Spielberg is reportedly preparing to film a new variation of the Barrie story starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman.

If all of this "Peter Pan" mania has somehow passed you by, you can make up for your lost childhood at the Mechanic Theatre. And by all means, stay for the curtain call. That's when Ms. Rigby does one of her most delightful aerial stunts. It'll make your spirits fly.

"Peter Pan" continues at the Mechanic Theatre through Nov. 25. For information call 625-1400.

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