Thursday, July 12, 2012
Theater review: Peter Pan at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas
Cathy Rigby is an appropriate Peter Pan, as she never seems to grow up.
There is something strangely beautiful about the subtitle to Peter Pan when you consider the current tour. Peter Pan: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up is hitting Dallas Summer Musicals in the Music Hall at Fair Park now through Sunday, July 22. Cathy Rigby returns to her role as Peter Pan after “retiring” from the part in 2006. At 59 years old, Rigby gave the subtitle a fresh new meaning!
This tour was a fresh new look at the classic musical. John Iacovelli and Shigeru Yaji outdid themselves with their amazing creation of bright colorful sets and costumes, respectively. The stage was beautifully set in every scene. From the bright homey feel of the children’s bedroom to the dark threatening tone of Marooner’s Rock, the set always added to and never distracted from the action on stage. Yaji’s costume design was storybook perfect, which is to be expected considering the material!
So the question before us is, can the 59 (nearly 60) year old Rigby pull off the physically demanding role of the timeless boy, Peter Pan? The answer is an unqualified yes! I was astonished at her stage presence, her physical agility, her acrobatic prowess, and the amazing things she accomplished when flying above the stage. Rigby did not merely strike a pose and let the riggers pull her around the stage. On the contrary, she was flipping, spinning and using every inch of that fly space to demonstrate that this Peter Pan was once the first American to ever win an Olympic medal in gymnastics. Simply awe-inspiring.
Another testimony to Rigby’s legacy in this role was the fact that she had so thoroughly captured the spirit of a boy who refuses to grow up. There were moments when it was hard to believe that there wasn’t actually a young boy delivering those lines. Rigby was as good now, if not better, than she was when she was nominated for a Tony for her work in this role.
But Rigby was not the only star in the house last night. She was surrounded by an accomplished cast of performers who gave it their all. Brent Barrett owned the stage and was a comic delight. His performance as both Mr. Darling and the dread pirate Captain Hook were spot on. His instantaneous transformation from terrifying and evil to simpering cowardice in the face of a wee little Crocodile (played by Clark Roberts) was executed with comic perfection. Bravo, Mr. Barrett, you presented a character we all delighted to hate!
Another bright light from the Pirate camp would have to be James Leo Ryan in his ingratiatingly irresistible portrayal of Smee. Captain Hook simply wouldn’t be, well, Captain Hook without Smee by his side to torture and abuse. Ryan took the abuse with simpering delight and had the audience in the palm of his hand.
Credit must also be given to Krista Buccellato (Wendy) and Kim Crosby (Mrs. Darling/Mermaid/Grown-Up Wendy) for their amazing vocal work. Both of these women would have been capable of filling the auditorium with their voices without the aid of microphones. Crosby mastered that challenging and rare feat of being able to sing at a tender hush just as compellingly as when she was belting out a note with full power.
The night was riddled with technical glitches. The performer microphones were often so muffled that the dialogue was lost completely. On occasion the orchestra/vocalist balance was out of proportion so that the performer was lost under the music. Sound was an issue throughout the night. On another occasion, the red flashlight of a crew member was seen in the doghouse as he was rigging Rigby to her flight lines. The most entertaining glitch of the night was on the flight to Neverland. One too many scrims were raised, resulting in what looked to be a journey that went beyond the bedroom, into the streets of London, out to the stars, then … backstage?!? The mistake was caught about half-way up and the scrim was quickly lowered. Mistakes happen and are often not noticed by the audience, but that was a particularly amusing one. My hope is that the audio issue is one that was only an opening-night glitch, and the remainder of the run will be crystal clear and beautifully balanced.
Speaking of beautifully balanced, the choreography as created by Patti Columbo was executed with precision and grace by the cast as a whole. From the synchronized marching and dancing of the Lost Boys to the frantic battle dances involving Pirates and Indians, it was clear that the cast could not only follow the choreography, but that they truly enjoyed performing it. Nowhere was that more evident than in the “Ugg-a-Wugg” number at the beginning of the second half. If you were looking for the show-stopping moment, that was it.
Several cast members had a moment in the spotlight during that number. It was high energy and entertaining. Rigby demonstrated another unexpected talent when she took up a set of sticks and performed a drum solo that should open the door for her should she ever wish to go on tour with the Blue Man Group!
When children are a part of the cast you never know what you are going to get. Cade Canon Ball (John Darling) and Julia Massey (Michael Darling) are two young stars, aged 11 and 10 respectively, who “get it.” These young performers were in character and in full performance mode every moment they were on the stage.
There has been one name conspicuously missing from this review. Just as Captain Hook must have his Smee, so must Peter Pan have his Tiger Lily. Jenna Wright first took the stage during the musical number “Indians!” and she did so with style. To say that Wright is a good dancer is to do her a gross injustice. If you will forgive a moment of hyperbole, it would be more accurate to say that Jenna Wright is dance. She flowed with the intent of the music while staying in primitive Indian character and simply made the scene her own. In both that number and in “Ugg-a-Wugg” Wright was Tiger Lily personified as dance. At the end of the night when I asked my daughter what her highpoint of the show was, I expected the answer to be when Peter and the kids flew or possibly one of the well-choreographed fight scenes. But her favorite moment was when Tiger Lily came off the silks and began to dance. Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan. And Jenna Wright is Tiger Lily.
Stop reading this review this instant. Pick up your phone, go to the internet, do whatever it is you need to do; but get your tickets for this all too short of a Dallas visit now. Peter Pan is iconic largely because of the work of Cathy Rigby. She is here. Now. Do not miss this amazing opportunity to see that the stories are true. Peter Pan is real, and it is possible for us to never grow up. Rigby has proven that to me.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
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