A Musical Production of the Play by Sir James Barrie
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh
Music by Moose Charlap
Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Directed by Glenn Casale
Musical Direction by Bruce Barnes
Scenic Designer: John Iacovelli
Lighting Designer: Michael Gilliam
Costume Designer: Shigeru Yaji
Sound Designer: Julie Ferrin
Choreographed by Patti Colombo
Fight Director: Sean Boyd
Flying Sequence Choreographer: Paul Rubin
Stage Manager: Michael McEowen
Mrs. Darling - Kim Crosby
Wendy Darling - Krista Buccellato
John Darling - Lexy Baeza
Michael Darling - Sophie Sooter
Liza - Jenna Wright
Nana - Clark Roberts
Mr. Darling - Sam Zeller
Peter Pan - Cathy Rigby
Curly - Bety Le
1st Twin - JC Layag
2nd Twin - Marc Andrew Nunez
Slightly - Dane Wagner
Tootles - Carly Bracco
Smee - James Leo Ryan
Cecco - Joseph Keane
Starkey - Shannon Stoeke
Bill Jukes - Clark Roberts
Captain Hook - Sam Zeller
Crocodile - Clark Roberts
Tiger Lily - Jenna Wright
Mermaid - Kim Crosby
Pirates & Indians - Erika Tomlinson, Anthony Bryant, Cameron Henderson, Patrick Loyd, Kalen Sakima,
Wendy (Grown-Up) - Kim Crosby
Jane - Carly Bracco
Reviewed Performance: 3/26/2013
Reviewed by Rachel Elizabeth Khoriander, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I personally remember watching rebroadcasts of the 1960s version starring Mary Martin and repeatedly crawling down from my bunk bed to replay the cassette tape over and over when I was supposed to be going to sleep. Over the years, I've both participated in and watched Peter Pan on the stage, seeing both Sandy Duncan and, repeatedly, Cathy Rigby in the role. And yet, no performer had ever entirely suspended my disbelief - no one had ever quite filled the shoes of that little boy who refused to grow up. Until now.
Cathy Rigby IS Peter Pan. And, aptly, that is what this tour is named. Rigby has ever been a marvelous performer, particularly in this role, but her performance now is arguably the best of her career. I'm so pleased I got to see her in it, as I overheard her telling someone that this would be her very last month performing in this role. Despite her diminutive stature, whoever follows Rigby is going to have large shoes to fill.
Nearly everyone with whom I have discussed this current tour has wondered whether Rigby's age (60) might affect her performance. To this I can now unequivocally respond yes--for the better. Rigby has always been a triple threat - her voice is astonishingly strong and clear, her acting flawless, her dancing beyond reproach. When combined with her amazing gymnastic talents and larger-than-life stage presence, these talents have always made her among the best of performers.
And now age has added a little something extra - her singing voice has mellowed into smokiness, her spoken tone has deepened ever so slightly and years of experience and study have allowed her to cultivate the perfect physical representation of a little boy. I spent the majority of the performance completely wrapped up in the illusion that I was indeed watching a male child and not a 60-year old female playing one. And if you're wondering whether her age may have affected her acrobatic performance or slowed her down at all, I will say this - if it has at all, it's only slightly.
Throughout the performance, Rigby is a spitfire. She rarely stands still, instead running around inspecting and tinkering with everything in sight, doing headstands and handstands, and climbing onto every surface that looks climbable. And it doesn't stop there. Her flying is not done by striking a pose and simply allowing herself to be hoisted into the air and slung about the stage. Her flying is accomplished by careening turns and tucks and rocketing twists that propel her through the air with lightning speed only to emerge from the maelstrom of movement to gracefully alight on some makeshift perch. In short, it's hard to determine whether she makes Paul Rubin, her flight choreographer, look good or he makes her look good. For my money, it's a little of both - a truly mutually beneficial partnership.
Rigby alone could carry this performance, but luckily she doesn't have to. She is supported by a very capable cast. The night I attended, Sam Zeller (who the Trekkies among you may recognize as Lt. Ch'Targh from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"), the understudy, played Captain Hook/Mr. Darling, and if Rigby had any ideas about stealing the show, Zeller wouldn't have let her. His performance is utterly delightful. He milks every drop of humor from his role and has a shockingly powerful voice. Watching Zeller's Hook and the band of ragtag buccaneers he has apparently assembled from every corner of the globe is some of the most fun had during the production.
Zellers' Mr. Darling and Kim Crosby's Mrs. Darling are well-done, wonderfully physically expressive and slightly larger than life, as they probably seem to their young, impressionable children. Krista Buccellato is Wendy, and while her Wendy seems less childish in the beginning than I would have imagined her to be, overall Buccellato's performance is beautifully done. She very much embodies the young girl who is playing house in preparation for someday running her own household, and her gentle distress at not being able to be more to Peter than just a stand-in mother is evident. Lexy Baeza is suitable and very proper as John, but is somewhat lacking in stage presence. Sophie Sooter as Michael is remarkably adept at the choreography and has a true presence, but her Michael does not play up his adorableness quite as much as I've seen in other productions.
James Leo Ryan's Smee is a slightly different take than I have seen in other productions - he is less weasily and sniveling, less cowed by Captain Hook and more out for himself, which seems more fitting for a pirate. Ryan delivers his lines with excellent comic timing and clearly delights in being Hook's right-hand man.
Clark Roberts as both Nana and the crocodile is marvelously physically expressive, which is quite a feat considering the layers of costuming he is buried beneath.
The Lost Boys are all full of energy and very convincing, with Carly Bracco as Tootles particularly standing out. Considering that the pirates and Indians are played by the same actors, it should come as no surprise that both groups are excellent performers. Hook's entire band of pirates is amusing and fresh, encompassing a range of nationalities and costuming. Whenever they are on stage there is always something interesting going on away from the main action of the scene. Similarly, the Indians are very interesting to watch, particularly since this production has expanded on their roles as dancers by including an aerial silk performance and advanced choreography. All of the Indians are very talented dancers and it's difficult to take one's eyes off of them when they are performing.
They are helmed by Jenna Wright's Tiger Lily, who is unfortunately not a stand out role. Wright, though clearly an exceptional, technically accurate dancer, simply isn't fun to watch. The pride and strength of Tiger Lily does not come through in her performance - her carriage is more sinewy and hunched, and she is simply not as good of a performer as some of her Indian cohorts. Technically, her moves are accurate but there is no magic, which a shame is given the choice choreography she has to work with.
Patti Colombo's choreography is an excellent example of how influential movement can be in the success of a stage production. Every separate group of characters - boys, pirates, Indians - has a different way of moving and dancing that is very fitting. In addition, the choreography is fresh, with engaging patterns of movement.
Finally, the choreography is clearly a joy to perform as the dancers are truly immersed in their performances and are giving their all. The choreography is certainly not hampered by the music, as Peter Pan features one of the loveliest and memorable scores in the musical arena, and the orchestra at Bass Performance Hall performs it enchantingly. It's exceedingly easy to lean back into your chair and let it carry you away and must have been just as inviting to choreograph to.
Peter Pan has a lot of room for innovative lighting and sound design, and the opportunity presented during this production is taken by Michael Gilliam, Lighting Designer, and Julie Ferrin, Sound Designer. Lighting excellently set the mood, whether vibrant in Neverland, diffuse and green on the pirate ship, muted and homey while singing lullabies to the Lost Boys or while tucking Wendy, John, and Michael Darling into bed. And what other production can boast a light as a central character? Here, Gilliam expertly delivers the quirky and lovable Tinkerbell, with a good deal of help from sound (and some other special) effects to truly personalize her and express her range of emotions. All of her flitting about is perfectly timed, as are the handfuls of fairy dust that magically erupt out of the air.
Rounding out the production are impeccable costuming and hairstyles by Shigeru Yaji and Mitchell Hale and a magnificent set by John Iacovelli. The costuming and hairstyles are inventive yet reflective of the time period in which Peter Pan is set, and the set itself is nothing short of amazing. Iacovelli has taken the themes of Peter Pan to heart it seems, as his set is a perfect blend of fantasy and reality and often looks like it has been ripped from the pages of a children's storybook. The Darling children's bedroom is Victoriana at its best, the Lost Boys haunt is carved from nature, and Hook's pirate ship is powerful and sleek, complete with curved, sweeping staircase and crow's nest; very fitting for a band of Tango and Tarantella-playing, dancing pirates.
But perhaps one of my favorite moments is when the children are flying to Neverland with Peter, and the Darlings' bedroom is removed to reveal a backdrop of the night sky filled with twinkling lights. The little girl in the seat next to me gasped and I glanced over to see her little rapture-filled face gazing at the stage in the darkness. At that moment I was transported back to my own childhood and to the first time I sat in a darkened theater while the music swelled and this imp of a boy leapt about the stage. And suddenly, I realized it didn't feel like all that long ago. Truly, there is nothing like Peter Pan to lift your heart and remind you of the magic and raw emotion that is and could be. And this production proves just that - that young and old alike, we all still believe in fairies.
Presented by: Performing Arts Fort Worth, Broadway at the Bass
Bass Performance Hall
525 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
LIMITED ENGAGEMENT: Runs through March 31st
Thursday, March 28th at 7:30 pm
Friday, March 29th and Saturday, March 30th at 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm.
Sunday, March 31st (Easter Sunday) at 1:00 pm.
Tickets are $38.50 - $99.00, depending on day and seating.
For information and to purchase tickets, go online to www.bassh