Cathy Rigby back for one last flight in ‘Peter Pan’
The title says it all: “Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan.” Since 1990, when the former Olympic gymnast first played the boy who never grows up, Cathy Rigby has been inextricably entwined with the leader of the Lost Boys. With Rigby at the helm (she and her husband produce the show), the musical has had four Broadway runs and received four Tony Award nominations.
Rigby called it quits as Peter Pan (following the 2004-2005 tour), but Neverland’s mischiefmaker continued to beckon to her. The magic of his call proved irresistible, thought Rigby says this is her last time soaring through the air asthe boy who didn’t want to grow up.
“I thought if I can still do this better … if we can add some new elements to it, if I’m believable — you know I just decided I would love to do it again,” she said of her return to the role. “To play in Neverland at night and to make people happy, and revive memories of folks who have enjoyed it in the past has just been actually kind of wonderful.”
After 12 years, how does 60-year-old Rigby make herself believable as an impish boy and keep the show fresh?
Certainly her petite frame and pixie looks help, but Rigby believes it comes down to taking care of herself and training hard.
“I have to say that when started this tour I said to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, can I do this?’ And I didn’t want to compromise at all, and so I trained a lot,” she said. And like her alter-ego, she thought, “Why not? Why can’t I?”
“I think what I love about playing the role of Peter is that he’s eternally optimistic and he can [be] because he never grows up,” she added. “It’s about not being old mentally more than anything. It’s about believing in possibilities and believing at 60 I can do this.”
Rigby said keeping this show fresh has never been an issue.
“Whenever you have an entirely new cast that brings a whole different dimension,” she said. “I think the physical show has changed. The flying has changed. It’s more difficult than it used to be. … We have an element of a Cirque du Soleil show … when Tiger Lilly is actually on[aerial] silks. That adds kind of a magical element to the show. So yes, the sword fighting is slightly different; the dancing is as athletic as ever; the acting is different just because of the fact that we have different actors on stage.”
Not surprisingly flying — the double wires used for this production allow Peter to soar like never before — is Rigby’s favorite part of the show.
“Oh my gosh! [It’s] unbelievable,” she said of her flights above the audience. “When I did gymnastics I didn’t have fairy dust or a safety wire to make sure [I’d] landed softly. I feel like I’m doing gymnastics once again only without worrying about falling. So you can really close your eyes and the wind is in your hair and there’s — you know, it’s just like in your dreams, like you’re spinning around. … I let go and just trust.”
♦Adler Planetarium is once again offering its popular Astro-Overnights, geared toward kids ages 6 to 10. Cost is $60 per person and includes evening activities and a show, a light snack, breakfast and general admission for the next day (evening-only cost is $27.50). Dates with openings available are Feb. 1, March 15, April 12 and May 3. The Adler is at 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive. Call (312) 922-7827 or visit www.adlerplanetarium.org.
♦ Snow or not, Morton Arboretum’s 10th annual Husky Heroes program will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 26-27 at 4100 Illinois 53 in Lisle. See Siberian huskies participate in dogsledding, skijoring and speed demonstrations and meet adoptable huskies courtesy of Adopt a Husky Inc. Included in general admission of $12 for adults, and $9 for kids 2 to 17. Call (630) 968-0074 or visit www.mortonarb.org.
♦ The Jan. 26 Kids Fare concert at Northwestern University features the Northwestern University Symphonic Band in a program of Band Illusions that highlights brass, woodwinds and percussion. The 10:30 a.m. concert at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, targets kids 3 to 8 years old. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for children. Call (847) 467-4000 or visit www.pickstaiger.org.
Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.