Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning! It’s flying into town for a limited engagement but every child and child at heart will want to race down to The Lyric Opera House and see Cathy Rigby in the title role in Peter Pan. Directed by Glenn Casale the whimsy and magic of Sir James Barrie’s wonderful play comes soaring onto the stage every bit as wonderful as you can imagine it! There are swashbuckling buccaneers and prowling Indians all around Neverland and with just a little bit of happy thought and faerie dust — lots of people are flying! It’s a wondrous production with lively music and the perfect balance between entertainment and a timeless classic that reaches out and touches the hearts of everyone in the audience.
Scenery Designer John Iacovelli pulls fairytale images straight from the pages of Barries’s world class work bringing them to a vibrant life right before your eyes in his intricately crafted backdrops and wildly exotic set pieces. The Darling Nursery alone is astonishing with its huge animated windows and clutter of a child’s life well lived, but once the journey begins, Iacovelli’s limits know no bounds as he crafts stunning jungle scenes, the frightening Marooner’s Rock and the elegant and impressive Jolly Roger Pirate Ship! All of the novelty of the great adventures lives right in the very atmosphere that Iacovelli has created, transporting the audience on a magical journey that must be seen to be believed. And keep your eyes open for Tinkerbell! A stunning light trick performed with flawless execution the sound is matched in the orchestra pit by Assistant Conductor David Dyer.
Never a more magical duo was there than Fight Choreographer Sean Boyd and Flight Designer Paul Rubin. The pair work hand in hand to make Peter Pan’s flight and fights (and especially the fights that happen in flight) the most breathtaking feats of amazement in air. Boyd has flawless routines that make Hook and Pan true battle masters. The choreography is tight, completely drawing you into the illusion and its moves so fast that you start to believe they’re actually sword fighting. Rubin’s flight sequences are nothing short of astonishing. The flipping, twirling, and overall acrobatic element keeps every member of the audience wide-eyed and awestruck. And when the fight scenes get a little flight in them it’s utterly amazing.
While most of the spectacle happens in the air, Choreographer Patti Colombo showcases a masterpiece of dance work on the stage. “Ugg-a-Wugg” alone features the entire cast (sans Hook and the pirates) fiercely dancing to an upbeat number with incredibly complex rhythmic dance moves, many of which incorporate high-flying kicks, jumps and drum-playing. Colombo’s work is best exhibited every time Tiger Lily and the Indians take to the stage, the routines becoming a fusion of ballet and rhythm dancing, adding the element of aerial silks for a little extra pizzazz.
Taking to the ropes of flying like naturals are John (Lexy Baeza) Michael (alternating— Sophie Sooter and Hadley Belle Miller) and Wendy (at this performance Carley Bracco) Darling. With sweet angelic voices for numbers like “Tender Shepherd” the Darling children live up to their surname with precious grace. When they join Peter Pan in flight during “I’m Flying” the excitement and thrilling exhilaration of being able to fly radiates through all three of these young performers, a contagious joviality that sweeps out over the audience.
There is something to be said for a band of boisterous boys, and The Lost Boys (JC Layag, Bety Le, Marc Andrew Nuñez, Dane Wagner, and Melissa Roberts) are no exception. With rousing fun personalities they’re every bit the ragtag band of misfits the play has painted them up to be. Dancing and singing with a powerful energy during “I Won’t Grow Up” and “Ugg-a-Wugg” the loveable quintet of scoundrels make for great comic relief, balancing out some of the scarier bits with those nasty pirates!
And the pirates (Anthony Bryant, Cameron Henderson, Patrick Loyd, Kalen Sakima, Erika Tomlinson, and Sam Zeller) who double as the Indians, are a fierce band of performers that are just the right blend of scary and silly. Waltzing about and creating a big ruckus for “Another Princely Scheme” and “Pirate March” this group of vile villains transitions nicely from the scum of the Neverland into the warriors of the native tribe. Lead by Princess Tiger Lily (Jenna Wright) the Indians perform a sensational war-path dance, “Indians!” that shakes up the whole stage. Wright is a fierce power upon the stage, shrieking her war cries with fury and throwing her body vehemently into her dancing.
The most notorious fiend of the high seas, mortal sworn enemy of Peter Pan stomps onto the stage first as Mr. Darling and then as the infamous Captain Hook (Brent Barrett). Having the perfect juxtaposition of nefarious ne’er do-gooder and flagrantly humorous bad guy, Barrett is the epitome of Barries’s Hook. With vim and vigor and a bold belting sound he gives a stunning series of songs, including “Hook’s Waltz” and “A Princely Scheme.” He’s unctuous and sleazy and even does the tango! As Mr. Darling he’s rigid and stiff and bemoans and groans with Nana (Clark Roberts) in scenes that will split your sides with laughter. Barrett’s performance is sheer acting genius, a perfect match against the sensational Cathy Rigby.
Playing the role for nearly 40 years is the incomparable and the incredible Cathy Rigby. Still fitting into the costume she wore for the 1974 debut in the role of the boy who never grew up, it is astonishing to see what she accomplishes on the stage as one of literature’s most memorable adventurous young characters. The energy that Rigby exudes in the performance is nothing short of the sheer exuberance of youth incarnate. Dancing and leaping and flying about it is breathtaking to watch Rigby in action. She never stops moving, constantly springing around the stage even when she’s not flying; a performance matched by no other. Rigby gives a genuine feel to the excitement and thrill of being a perpetual youth, and watching her bound about the stage without so much as a pause for breath is simply astounding.
Rigby incorporates her gymnast background into the aerial stunts, flipping, twirling, walking backwards and upside-down up walls; it must be seen to be believed. And when the window first opens and she flies up onto the stage her appearance is met with tumultuous thunderous applause; a reception well deserving of the talent she displays throughout the performance. Her voice is perfect for the role she plays and her songs are full of lively energy, particularly “I Gotta Crow” and “I Won’t Grow Up!” Rigby presents a masterpiece — filled to the brim with whimsy and magic, and her faerie dust is simply marvelous as it follows her everywhere she goes!
So think of a magical thought! Any happy little thought— and with some faith and trust (believing in faeries is a must!) and a little bit of faeries dust— you too can be on your way to Neverland with Peter Pan for all the wonderful adventures that await!
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
Peter Pan has one more performance tomorrow, March 24th at 1 PM plays, at The Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric Opera House — 110 W. Mount Royale Avenue, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call (410) 900-1150, or purchase them online.