“Peter Pan” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ January 10, 2013


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

The musical “Peter Pan” is for kids and there were lots of little ones at ASU Gammage Tuesday night when the latest tour starring the 60-year-old Cathy Rigby opened for a week.  This isn’t a magical or cleverly creative production.  It’s a competent version that gets the expected dances out, has literal scenery so no one will be confused about where each scene occurs, and has performers, like Rigby, who do nothing unexpected and fail to deliver the kind of fanciful performances the show mandates.  But the kids were enchanted Tuesday and their adult escorts were tolerant.

Please don’t take your opera glasses because it’s better not to get a close up look at Rigby who is amazingly limber and nimble but still looks her age when you see facial details.  There is one winning performance from gifted Broadway musical theater star Brent Barrett, who doubles as a wonderfully cautious Mr. Darling but transforms into a sinister and evil Captain Hook later.

Also, don’t focus too closely on the musical’s adaptation of Sir James Barrie’s 1904 play because the familiar but bland songs have banal lyrics.

And even the flying sequences are ordinary after seeing recent shows like “Mary Poppins” that use flying much more creatively.  Rigby and the others who fly go up and down and side to side over and over.   In only a couple of brief sequences does Rigby actually fly around the stage and land in unexpected spots doing unusual things.

Rigby has made a career of playing Peter on Broadway and on tour.  She already played the show at ASU Gammage back in 1990 and now, almost 25 years later, has played the role thousands of times.  She’s small, slender, uses a decent costume, and some disguising make-up to become a convincing young boy.  But Rigby is not a good singer and it’s her amazing energy and not her musical theater skills that carry off her Peter Pan now.  

Perhaps my vision of Peter was colored at age four, when I still remember seeing Mary Martin captivate in the original stage production and later in the now infamous television version that filmed the live version.

Except for the talented Barrett, this is a competent cast that gets the job done.  And that is the production’s major handicap.  There’s not a moment of spontaneity nor is there anything magical to capture the children’s imaginations like the Martin version did for me in the ‘50s.

For the record, “Peter Pan’s” weekend matinees are already sold-out.  “Peter Pan” continues Sunday (January 13).  For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: C