Review of Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan
by Katie Beltramo
"Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan" opened last night at Proctors Theater in Schenectady and continues through the weekend. If your first thought is, "Wait, Cathy Rigby is still doing this? How old is she?" then you're not alone. But skeptics, prepare to be blown away by Rigby's portrayal of Peter. She's funny, exuberant, boastful, swaggering, naughty, and thoroughly lovable as Peter Pan. Whether Peter is abusing Wendy's ornate Victorian doll in the opening scene, singing (surprisingly well) while flipping and twisting through the air, or choking back sobs when the Lost Boys leave him, Rigby embodies a thoroughly believable boy.
Along with Peter Pan, Brent Barrett as Captain Hook (and Mr. Darling) and Jenna Wright as Tiger Lily are both stand-out performers. Captain Hook leads a band of pirates who are far too goofy to scare anyone, and for pirate fans their costumes are entertaining, since each seems dressed as a pirate from a different country. Tiger Lily and the rest of the Indians perform some gorgeous and acrobatic choreography: between the Indians and Peter Pan's antics, parts of the musical feel like a circus act. The cast also includes puppets for Nana the dog-nurse and Hook's nemesis the crocodile, both of whom are huge kid-pleasers.
My 8- and 10-year-old daughters loved Tiger Lily: she's fierce, athletic, and beautiful. Their only complaint was that she kept saying that Peter was the "Sun, Moon, and Stars." They felt that any self-respecting girl would dial it back a little. They loved the silly pirate songs and dances, and they were deeply envious of the Lost Boys' underground hideout.
What Ages Are Appropriate for Peter Pan?
The production is funny, and jam-packed with action, making it a terrific first theater experience. The story is familiar, and with elements like fairies and pirates, it's appealing to most children. At our performance, all ages seemed thoroughly enchanted and got into the spirit, booing Captain Hook loudly, for example, when he entered. When Peter asked us to clap to show we believed in fairies and save Tinkerbell, my 8-year-old had pulled her hood over her head and anguished and clapped with the fervor of the life-and-death situation that it was. During the performance there are strobe lights as well as a couple of loud noises, and the atmosphere in the nursery, when Mrs. Darling suspects an intruder, and later on Marooner's Rock is a bit scary, but generally even the swordfights seem more like play than fighting.
Before and After the Show
After a slower-moving opening scene in the frilly Victorian nursery, the musical moves along at a rapid pace, so kids will find it easier to follow along if they are already familiar with the story. For example, at the beginning, the Lost Boys have stolen food from the Indians and are being pursued, but there is little dialogue to explain it. Children will get more out of the performance if they know the basics of the plot already (repetition is helpful for young kids). The outdated Indian number "Ugg-a-Wugg" is a bit cringe-inducing with today's parents, but it can be used to start a discussion about the make-believe world of Neverland versus actual Native Americans.
One of the best aspects of "Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan" is that the members of the cast all come out after the show to greet the public. Rigby herself signs posters to benefit Discovery Arts, an organization that brings music, art, dance, and drama into hospitals to enhance the lives of critically ill children. In fact, there's an ongoing silent auction and the hugest donor will be allowed to "fly" between the performances on Saturday. There are also DVDs and CDs of the performance available.
Although the official running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes, our performance was closer to 2 hours, 10 minutes. When the lights went up for intermission, my 8-year-old daughter asked, "Already?" On the car ride home, she judged it better than "Mary Poppins" earlier this year, while the 10-year-old couldn't choose. As we drove home, I was feeling a little glum that I had become a lame grown-up like boring ol' Wendy. But then when I checked Rigby's age (and I'm not telling you, because you should go see it first), I felt a little shot of adrenaline. If Peter and Cathy don't have to grow up, neither do I.
Running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes including one intermission.
Photos in review by Michael Lamont, courtesy of Proctors.
Katie Beltramo, a mother of two, writes at www.capitaldistrictfun.com. When her daughters aren’t attending musicals, they’re organizing their own extravagant, costume-laden productions.