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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Rigby's Farewell Peter Pan Tour
Soars into the 5th Avenue

Also see David's review of The Lion King

Peter Pan
Cathy Rigby, Greyson Spann, Gavin Leatherwood, and Elisa Sagardia
Thanks to director Glen Casale's darker and naughtier than usual interpretation of his source material, Cathy Rigby's farewell cross-country tour of Peter Pan at the 5th Avenue Theatre provides a rousing holiday diversion for children and adults alike.

This musical adaptation of J.M. Barrie's tale of the boy who wouldn't grow up was created for Mary Martin, whose televised versions were brought to huge audiences worldwide, then it soared anew with an able Sandy Duncan enchanting new generations of the young and young at heart. Arguably, however, gymnast-turned-musical-theatre-diva Rigby, who has played more theaters (on stage and in the air) in the role fills the role better than her illustrious predecessors. With a convincing British accent, seemingly undiminished athletic ability and a cocky, boyish swagger that surpasses any Peter Pan I have seen, Rigby's performance is the benchmark against which all future Pans will be measured. Her delivery of the show's trademark hit tunes (songs by both Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh, as well as Jule Styne, Betty Comden & Adolph Green) "I Gotta Crow," "Neverland," and I'm Flying," are all one could wish for, and her character's relationships with both Wendy and Captain Hook are believably detailed.

Speaking of Hook, Casale's Pirates of the Caribbean take on the Neverland Captain gives the splendid Howard McGillin plenty to work with in the role. McGillin [see David's interview] is a master of portraying musicalized versions of classic literary characters, from his dastardly John Jasper in Drood, to the Hunchback Uncle Archie in The Secret Garden to his record-breaking run in the title role in the Broadway The Phantom of the Opera. The role of Hook (and briefly as the uptight Darling family patriarch) isn't as musically ambitious as some of McGillin's past roles, but his acting prowess is quite impressive, as was his ability to ad-lib to his audiences glee when a chimney didn't smoke. When he made his entrance to a chorus of crowd hisses, he hissed right back, "That will only encourage me!" His swordplay is such that his ultimate confrontation with Peter is actually exciting, while his rich vocal delivery, and his way with a comedic lyric, does full justice to "Captain Hook's Waltz." Also, while the kids in the audience hadn't a clue, McGillin/Hook tickled the older audience greatly, referring to his crew as "saucy eunuchs."

As the Darling children, Elissa Sagardia makes an appealingly feisty, vocally-warm Wendy and Greyson Spann is a certifiable scene stealer as little Michael, while understudy Lindsay Nickerson amiably covered the role of Michael. Dana Solimando is agile and robust as Tiger Lily, Patrick Richwood's Smee makes a suitably zany comic sidekick to McGillin's Hook, Tracy Lore is endearing as Mrs. Darling/Older Wendy, and the rest of the company performs like a well-oiled machine, without their performances ever seeming canned, as can sometimes occur in a long road tour.

Patti Colombo's choreography is varied and raffish, even if there seems to be a bit more dance in this version than is vitally necessary for a show largely targeted for the sometimes squirmy younger set. Craig Barna's musical direction of a mixture of touring and local musicians is spirited and appealing to the ear, while John Iacovelli's sets, Shigeru Yaji's costumes, and Tom Ruzika's lighting are all top drawer. The Flying by EFX is ably employed, and nothing beats that moment when Rigby flies out over the audience.

It may be a while (if ever) before another big name takes to the road to follow in Rigby's footsteps, so whether here in Seattle or in one of its other road stops next year (before a Broadway wind-up), by all means catch this Peter Pan while you can.

Peter Pan runs through December 19, 2004 at the 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 5th Avenue, in downtown Seattle. For more information, www.5thavenuetheatre.org.


Photo: Craig Schwartz



- David-Edward Hughes



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