If the events of the past few weeks have left the child in your life or your inner child a bit bruised, cynical, or jaded, a cure has, well, flown into town. Cathy Rigby is back in Peter Pan, and this is no tired classic, slumping in with an aging star. No, this is a perfectly produced and performed shimmering gem of a show, one that can truly be called wondrous.
Based on the classic James Barrie children’s story, this musical version of the boy who wouldn’t grow up and how he takes three London children off to Neverland for adventures with pirates and Indians captivates from the moment the curtain opens. The look of the open scene, with sets by John Iacovelli, costumes by Shigeru Yaji and wigs by Mitchell Hale, has the timeless perfect look of a Disney ride or the Enchanted Village.
Kim Crosby and Brent Barrett as Mrs. and Mrs. Darling also set a warm if gently bickering tone and a brisk pace that starts the show off right. Barrett pulls double duty as the villainous Captain Hook, but truthfully as good as his full-voiced, mustachioed Hook is, Mr. Darling is an even better showcase for his charm and comedic skills.
There’s not a weak link in the cast, from the Darling children (Carly Bracco subbing for Krista Buccellato as Wendy, Lexy Baeza as John, and Sophie Sooter and Hadley Belle Miller alternating as little Michael) to every ensemble member. The cast is certainly given many energetic dance numbers -- the acrobatic introduction of the Indians is mesmerizing and the tom-tom laden "Ugg-a-Wugg" is a stunner -- but the real strength of the cast is how fully committed each and every one is to their characters.
The lost boys are the most boyish and wild boys possible, each pirate is as pirate-y they can be, selling every "argh!", and Nana is perfectly doggy(Clark Roberts, also featured as the crocodile). Every character is so fully inhabited that the world of the show truly comes alive.
And then there’s Cathy Rigby. She’s on the far side of young and she’s played this role probably hundreds, perhaps thousands of times, yet she is simply magical. When on the ground, she’s perfectly boyish, kicking at trunks and whipping one of Wendy’s dolls around by its hair. She also exhibits great comic timing, landing every joke and making a laugh line out of a simple "All right." and still has a lovely voice, selling numbers like "I Gotta Crow" and the gentler "Neverland".
And then the lady flies (assisted by cables and wires that the flying crew, choreographed by Paul Rubin, does a stellar job at stealthily hooking and unhooking). More than that -- she spins and flips and twirls, sprinkling glitter as she goes. And it’s just magical (that final flight over the orchestra section of the Wang is guaranteed to elicit spontaneous gasps and cheers).
Just as magical is Rigby’s ability to so sincerely deliver what could be the tritest part of the show -- that moment when the audience must be cajoled into clapping to bring Tinkerbell back to life. Rigby’s relationship with an invisible fairy manifested as a tight follow spot is incredible and a well-placed "Boston strong!" nearly brought the house down.
I defy you to keep a single cynical or depressing thought in your head while watching this show. It’s the very best of theater that can, without exaggerating in the slightest, utterly transport you to another place, and you need to run to those shows when you can. Run to "Peter Pan".
Peter Pan continues through April 28 at the Wang Theatre at the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston. For more info you can go to the show’s website.