The word from Never Never Land is that, as the little boy who never wants to grow up, Rigby is at the top of her pretending game. Indeed, she lives up to the claim. When she soars over the stage, it is still magical. How she comes up with all that fairy dust is also magic to kids four to 104.
She’s adept, after so many performances under her wide belt, at getting hooked (no pun intended) and unhooked from the strong cables used to lift her, without the audience having a clue. Her switches are seamless, as are her mid-air acrobatics. She makes it all look so easy.
If you wish hard enough, Rigby may surprise you during the second act with a flight path over the audience, which had Tuesday night’s audience mesmerized.
It doesn’t matter if you have seen “Peter Pan” a dozen times before, this production is a must see. The score is hummable, the dances are fresh and updated and the show just makes you feel good.
The quintessential “pixie” says that she plans to “pass the fairy dust along to someone else after this tour ends in April.”
Rigby’s folding up her green tights for the fourth and final time in Dallas, she announced. And just as we thought no one could replace Mary Martin in the legendary role, we felt the same about Sandy Duncan’s Pan. Rigby has now found her permanent throne in Never Never Land, to leave us wondering, “Who can possibly fill Cathy Rigby’s pixie shoes?”
To refresh our collective memory, Rigby was the first American woman to win a World Olympics in the gymnastics competition at the age of 15. Her 1968 win led to a newfound interest in the sport of gymnastics across the country.
At an awe-inspiring age of 60, Rigby is still crowing. The Olympics champion explains how she does it. “People put limits on themselves regarding their physicality. I’ve never felt better. I find this work less difficult than it used to be. Knowing so well how to land is key. The dances and flips are basically the same, but now there’s an ease doing them. Vitamins and Pilates help me keep up the stamina.” Today, Rigby tours the country speaking on wellness.
Rigby may have been even more believable and endearing than before in Tuesday’s opening night performance. Not only is this 60-year-old mother of four an inspiration to girls and women who want to achieve their dreams, but she carries another torch as well. Rigby struggled with anorexia and bulimia for 12 years of her life, going into cardiac arrest twice. Now she epitomizes all the possibilities that young women can look forward to.
Jenna Wright is incomparable as Tiger Lily, as she projects a malleable sweetness. Her lithe movement and effortless grace bring an elegance that makes her a standout among the population of pirates, Indians, crocodiles, fairies and little boys.
Playing both the parts of John Darling and Captain Hook is Brent Barrett, who is no stranger to theater. A few of his credits include “Chicago,” “West Side Story,” “Brigadoon” and “Grand Hotel.” He has performed opposite Rigby in “Annie Get Your Gun.”
When Barrett as Mr. Darling crawls out of Nana’s doghouse, literally, he’s a sight for sore eyes. And then, as Hook, he’s entirely believable as the mean bully the part calls for. He’s larger than life, and his imaginative, loud costumes support the persona.
Barrett says that he always enjoys working in Dallas. “The Music Hall is great, the audiences are receptive and the people in Dallas are fantastic. DSM is so welcoming. Most theaters don’t go above and beyond to be hospitable like Dallas does.”
The 30-year theater veteran says, “There’s no better family show than ‘Peter Pan.’ All of us have our inner child. Everyone wishes they could be up there flying.”
He says he doesn’t know yet what he will do after this tour. “It’s liberating when a tour ends. It’s nice having the freedom. Then you may make a decision that will totally change your life.”
“Peter Pan” will run through July 22, 2012 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. For ticket information, call or visit dallassummermusicals.org.