Peter Pan was Hung!
During the run of Peter Pan on Broadway in 1979 Sandy Duncan turned in a smashing performance as the boy who won't grow up. If you have ever seen any performance of this musical, chances are that you will notice in the program the credit, "Flying by Foy." From what I know, that is all this company does. These Foy people fly, on planes, all around the country flying Peter Pans and Liberaces!
Peter Foy was the chief flyer for Sandy Duncans' Peter Pan. The flying for the show is always a challenge because each theatre is build differently. Peter Foy had to figure out exactly how to arrange all the flying apparatus for the Lunt-Fontanne theatre. And then there were the countless rehearsals to teach the cast members how to fly. Each actor is assigned their own wire and they learn to depend on it with careless abandon. In the case of Sandy, it is a well known fact that she has vision in only one eye, so her depth perception created special problems. As a precautionary measure, the walls of the theatre were padded, and many was the time that Sandy flew right into them!
During previews is when all that flying is coordinated to a precise detail, but sometimes, all does not go well!
At one particular preview performance, we watched and listened to the strains of "Tender Shepheard." On cue, the curtains fluttered, the shutters flew open and Sandy Duncan as Peter Pan made her spectacular flying entrance. All was going well until it was time to do the incredible flying number, "I'm Flyin'." Now, this is the most difficult flying that is done in the show. You have to remember that not only is Peter flying high, but so are Wendy, Michael and John.
Sandy gave the cue, and she was instantly airborne, then up flew Wendy and John. Michael, played by Jonathan Ward, was still grounded because he couldn't think lovely thoughts, until candy and Christmas entered his mind. I forget which was his cue, but I think it was Christmas, and U-U-U-U-P, UP, UP went Michael.
And then it happened. Peter Pan and crew were HUNG!
The flying machinery locked and all four perfomers were hung in mid-air. As they settled on their wires, the audience watched with a great intensity. Sandy Duncan, suspended centerstage, arms folded on her chest kept her cool, waiting, and waiting.
Little Michael, in his p.j.'s, to Sandy's right, decided to ad-lib. (well, he did give the last cue!). He looked upward and repeated his line.
"Christmas," he shouted.
At the same time, he jumped on the wire to get it going. This was hysterically funny because he wasn't going anywhere. He was now bouncing in place holding onto his teddy bear. Sandy, with arms folded across her chest, calmly watched his antics. Michael decided to try it again.
"Christmas," he gleefully screamed, but nothing!
Sandy turned to him, and totally deadpanned, "shut up, Michael!" The audience roared.
Seconds later, the machinery back in order, the cast flying, sets to the wings, and then that fabulous starry background as the cast performed and flew the incredible flying journey to Neverland.
In addition to those already mentioned, George Rose played a wonderfully foppish "Captain Hook" and James Cook was a great "Nana."
During the curtain call, Sandy came out last, of course, for a wonderful round of applause. Then, she disappeared while the others took individual bows. When it was her turn for the second call, she entered from stage right from behind the curtain. (This was one of Peter Foys wiring stations) Sandy walked center stage to take her bow, sprinkled fairy dust over the orchestra, and all of a sudden, U-U-U-UP, UP, UP she went and flew out over the orchestra ,right into the theatre with a destination of the balcony rail! The audience went crazy, the kids trying to reach Peter Pan as he flew over their heads while the front mezzanine almost had a chance to kiss Peter Pan.
It's not easy stepping into Mary Martin's shoes, but Sandy Duncan did so, and she will go down in theatre history as one of the best Peter Pans, if not, THE best!
(Sandy Duncan was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance. Patti Lupone won that year for Evita.)