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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


Peter Pan

A Christmas Carol
Cathy Rigby
Seemingly unable to grow up—or at least to visibly age—Cathy Rigby continues her second career (she retired from first career as a world-class gymnast after the 1972 Olympics at age 19) as an actress, specifically an actress who portrays Peter Pan. After touring as Peter in 1974, Rigby made the first of four Broadway appearances in the well-loved musical in December, 1990 (limited run productions in 1991, 1998 and 1999 followed). In addition to being a commentator for ABC Sports and doing commercial work, Rigby has also appeared on stage in Wizard of Oz, Annie Get Your Gun, Meet Me in St. Louis and Seussical. And now she returns to Peter Pan in a Pittsburgh CLO production currently running at the Benedum Center. To say she gives a crowd-pleasing performance is an understatement. Her energy, athletic skill, and joyfulness perfectly suit the character of Peter Pan.

In this musical adaptation of the classic James M. Barrie story (with music by Mark Charlap, lyrics by Carolyn Leight—additional music by Jules Styne and additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green), which was conceived, directed and choreographed originally by Jerome Robbins, Peter takes Wendy Darling (Elisa Sagardia) and her brothers John and Michael (Brian Brazon and Joseph Serafini) to Neverland, to battle the wicked Captain Hook (Tom Hewitt) and befriend Tiger Lily (Tiffany Helland), accompanied by the motherless Lost Boys. It's a story for the young and the young at heart, an opportunity to leave contemporary troubles and quibbles at the door and feel a long-lost childlike hope from a sprinkle of fairy dust.

Rigby performs without a hint of "done that," some thirty-four years after her first "I Gotta Crow." She shows a freshness that picks up the production and pulls in the audience—even those who may be more reluctant than she to revisit the classic that many baby boomers have enjoyed frequently since the original telecast in the mid-1950s. Hewitt matches her with a solid and comical performance as Hook (and a staid yet loving Mr. Darling). His height and resonant voice provide the perfect false confidence for the meek-within leader of pirates. Hook's timid and put-upon sidekick Mr. Smee is perfectly played by Michael Nostrand. Their antics are well-choreographed by Dana Solimando (who recreates the choreography of Patti Colombo) and director Glenn Casale. Casale's direction keeps things well on pace, though a few dance segments seem to drag a bit (though well-performed by the beautiful Helland and the ensemble).

Sets by John Iacovelli, costumes by Shigero Yaji and fight choreography by Sean Boyd also contribute to a polished and fun production. A star of the evening is Craig Barna (musical direction, vocal arrangement and new orchestrations) who leads the orchestra in their presentation of beautiful music throughout the show.

Peter Pan runs through July 2 at the Benedum Center for Pittsburgh CLO, Van Kaplan Executive Producer. The season continues with Mame July 8-13 (featuring Michele Lee, Ruth Williamson, Donna Lynne Champlin, John Hickok and Mary Stout), Smokey Joe's Cafe July 15-20, Annie Get Your Gun July 22-August 3 (with Jenn Colella), West Side Story August 5-17. For performance and ticket information, call 412-456-6666 or visit pittsburghCLO.org.


Photo: Matt Polk


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-- Ann Miner

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