The only thing more critic-proof than the musical “Peter Pan” is a production of “Peter Pan” starring Cathy Rigby. And you have them both at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady through Sunday.
This production is great for kids. It’s eye-appealing, the flying is exciting and the story about the virtues of never growing up is a message everyone wants to hear. Two, the youngsters will not notice the production looks tired with several mechanical portrays that are just good enough.
However, none of the above applies to Cathy Rigby. Though the diminutive actress has lost a step since her last appearance at Proctors (about a half-dozen years ago) her performance is still high octane. She’s not only a joy for the kids to watch, the 60-year old Rigby is an inspiration to anyone who has become a grand-anything.
There are three critical moments in any production of “Peter Pan.” In chronological order they are the flying off to Neverland at the end of the first scene. At Proctors Rigby’s enthusiasm and high speed twirling expresses the joy of a person in their natural element. She becomes a boy who is having the time of his life.
The second is when Peter gets the kids in the audience to save Tinkerbell’s life by clapping and loudly expressing their belief in fairies. On opening night, Tuesday, the response from the audience (adults included) was immediate and enthusiastic.
The final important moment is during the final scene when Peter sadly realizes Wendy has grown up. It is immediately followed by the joy of finding out her daughter will take her place. In this production the scene is tender and even mature as it expresses the truth that life and love perpetuate themselves.
There are other pleasures in the production like the phenomenal Ugg-a-Wugg number that opens the second act. It is a high energy scene that permits the entire cast to show off their dancing and acrobatic talents. Everyone is sensational, but no one is more impressive than Rigby.
For adults the production is a play of moments, with the good scenes rescuing a show that has lost its spontaneity. You can almost see performers more interested in finding their mark than they are in finding new laughs.
However, while an adult might see a fight scene choreographed to point of sterility, the less-spoiled eyes of the kids will see wondrous battles in which the Lost Boys and Tiger Lilly’s band of Indians beat the pompous Captain Hook and his inept band of comical pirates.
Indeed, “Peter Pan” is all about magic and for kids this is a magical show.
“Peter Pan” at Proctors Theatre, Schenectady. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 2 p.m. Thurs, Sat., Sun. (518) 346-6204
Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.
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