Saturday, January 26, 2013

Peter Pan, or the Wonder of Live Theatre, by Andreas Wessel Therhorn

Peter Pan at the Pantages Theater, Hollywood
I went to see the musical stage show Peter Pan at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood for two reasons - one was a half-price ticket offer, the second was to see how 61 year old Cathy Rigby , who has played this part on and off for 25 years, would hold up as the symbol of perpetual youth, Peter Pan.

The musical opens to a set of the Darling bedroom, complete with the big shaggy Nanny dog. The magic starts when Tinkerbell, represented by a flickering spotlight, makes her appearance. A marionette she touches begins to dance, drawers in a cupboard open and close, the light in the dollhouse comes on, and pixie dust spews from the chimney. Then, the ‘boy’ herself makes her entrance and I needn’t have worried if the aging star and former Olympic athlete would be up to the job.
She flies!
Cathy Rigby jumps, cartwheels and handstands her way through the show, and when she teaches the Darling children to fly, the set falls away to reveal a starry night sky, at which point I turned back into a kid myself. The flying in this show is truly terrific and Rigby moves like a performer 40 years younger.

A strong cast, inventive staging and choreography and the score that includes songs like ‘Neverland’ and ‘I’m flying’, all make for a great night out.

As is to be expected with a family show like this, the audience was full of excited kids, and this is where the real magic happened for me - to see these young kids of the iphone, dvd and computer animation generation, react to live theatre, music, puppetry. Hearing their laughter and gasps, they totally believed that this 61 year old woman was a boy from the second star to the right. They clapped and shouted to keep ‘Tinkerbell’ alive, just like their counterparts did for many generations, a reminder that it’s a strong story that keeps the audience involved, not the complexity of a hair simulation or the realism of an environment.

When, in the epilogue, Peter Pan took Wendy’s daughter by the hand and flew away towards new adventures, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house…or maybe that was just me.


(Editor's note: Peter Pan is playing at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood until Sunday January 27th)

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