REVIEW: ‘Peter Pan’ remains an old-fashioned treat

Sunday, 18 December 2011 15:29
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Cathy Rigby flies into Madison Square Garden for the holidays

peterpan121811_optBY MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW

20 years since she first played Peter Pan on Broadway, Cathy Rigby is defying gravity and time amazingly well in the musical “Peter Pan,” now at Madison Square Garden through the holidays.

Kids who first saw Rigby in 1991 are taking their own youngsters to the show about The Boy Who Won’t Grow Up. They will find Rigby flying high as ever and in excellent boyish form, friskily doing handstands and somersaults, pounding drums and clashing swords and confidently swooping through mid-air.

Viewed from some 25 rows back – as most people will at MSG – Rigby looks as lively as ever and it’s a pleasure to see once again her shining performance as Peter. For those of us old enough to recall Mary Martin from the TV broadcast (vaguely) and remember Sandy Duncan’s chipper Broadway incarnation in 1979, the ageless spectacle of Rigby’s energy and agility today is downright inspiring.

Speaking of spectacle, in spite of Rigby’s spirited presence, this otherwise okay touring production visually appears frayed around the edges. In these times of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” the flying effects here are tame business, with Rigby only zooming out over the audience for her curtain call.

But the quaint effects and painted scenery carry an old-fashioned charm that actually complements The Musical We All Grew Up With. Familiar songs like “Neverland,” “I Gotta Crow” and “I’m Flying” retain their old genial magic and the story remains easy for little kids to follow. Pirates, Indians, a crocodile with red eyes, oh my! Clap your hands if you believe in fairies. peter2pan121811_opt

Tom Hewitt swaggers about agreeably as Captain Hook. Tinkerbell twinkles around prettily as a multi-colored glow (looking much nicer than formerly in her ugly green period as a laser). Director Glenn Casale’s company enthusiastically dashes through the action. A 20-minute intermission provides time for bathroom breaks and souvenir buying. Budget-minded visitors should note that bags are inspected beforehand for smuggled-in drinks or snacks.

“Peter Pan” continues through Dec. 30 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, 32nd Street at Seventh Avenue, New York. Call (866) 858-0007 or visit www.theateratmsg.com.

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