She's flyin' -- again.
Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan was so hot at the box office in December 1998 that producers brought her back from the Neverland of a national tour to come down to earth at the Gershwin Theatre April 7 to August 29. Performances begin with the April 7 matinee.
Audiences in New York and on the road cheered the newly-directed, designed and choreographed reconsideration of the 1954 Broadway musical by Carolyn Leigh, Moose Charlap, Jule Styne and Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Different from previous tours by Rigby and her McCoy Rigby Entertainment, this Peter Pan has a slightly revised book and a centerpiece Act 2 dance sequence, "Ugg-a-Wugg," created by choreographer Patti Colombo. Potentially offensive Native American references have been trimmed and "Ugg-a-Wugg" is now part musical comedy nonsense and part primal percussion show.
The new Peter Pan performance schedule will include Thursday matinees and no performances Tuesdays. The popular musical revival was a smash during its 53-show run Nov. 23, 1998 to Jan. 3, 1999. Originally, the Peter Pan return was booked for the smaller Neil Simon Theatre, but it went to the larger Gershwin after On the Town folded there earlier this year. The return is produced by McCoy Rigby Entertainment, The Nederlander Organization and La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in association with Albert Nocciolino, Larry Payton, J. Lynn Singleton.
Glenn Casale directed the production, John Iacovelli designed sets, Shigeru Yaji designed costumes, Martin Aronstein designed lighting. Craig Barna is musical director.s
When the musical revival of Peter Pan previously opened (after previews) Nov. 23, 1998 at the Marquis, Neverland was slightly different than in previous revivals.
Former gymnast Rigby, who has played the title role on tour for many years and appeared twice before with it on Broadway, still flew and spread fairy dust. But what was new in Neverland?: The song "Distant Melody" is now a duet between Peter and Wendy; there is no dance for Neverland animals; the song "Mysterious Lady," a specialty for Mary Martin in the 1954 original, has been gone from the revival for many years; the scenic design by Iacovelli includes fantastical images around the proscenium that suggest a rich Victorian greeting card.
Rigby played the role on tour in 1990-91 and 1991-92, bringing the show to Broadway both times. Her muscular, boyish quality and strong singing voice earned her solid reviews around the country and she garnered a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical in 1991 (Lea Salonga won that year for Miss Saigon).
The 1999 return cast includes Barbara McCulloh, Michael Nostrand, Dana Sollimado, Barry Cavanagh, Drake English, Scott Bridges, Doreen Chila, Janet Higgins, Hally McCehean, Alon Williams, Kim Arnett, Michelle Berti, William Alan Coats, Austin Colaluca, Randy A. Davis, Jeffrey Elsass, Casey Miles Good, Buck Mason, Brian Shephard, Roger Preston Smith, Tony Spinosa and Sam Zeller.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this Pan is that longtime special effects company Flying by Foy is not handling the flying; ZFX is. That company's clients have included Six Flags in Fiesta, TX, Nickelodeon TV Studios, "Babylon 5," Dallas Children's Theatre and Music Theatre of Wichita.
Says Peter Pan producer Tom McCoy, "We found ZFX's approach to Peter refreshingly creative, coupled with a willingness to adapt and experiment with new ideas. Yet, ZFX provides the same measure of safety and security we experienced in the past, and which is vital to a successful production."
ZFX director of field operations Paul Rubin described the mechanics to Playbill On-Line: "Rigby hangs from a 1/16-inch diameter cable, like kite string, only rated at 1,000 pounds. Our system is a flying track system, used for shows like Peter Pan, Wizard Of Oz at Music Theatre Of Wichita -- anytime you need control of vertical and horizontal movement. We don't use leather straps and buckles; we have quick-release snap buckles that are easier to conceal."
A CD of the newly tweaked and freshly orchestrated score was released in 1998 on the Jay label.
After the Broadway engagement ends, Peter Pan will resume its national tour.
Originally produced on Broadway in 1954 starring Martin, Peter Pan is drawn from Sir James Barrie's original 1904 play, itself based on several chapters that appeared in his 1902 novel, "The Little White Bird." Songs in the show include "I'm Flying," "Tender Shepherd," "Wendy," "I Won't Grow Up," "I Gotta Crow," "Neverland," "Distant Melody" and "Hook's Waltz."
Sandy Duncan starred in the 1979-80 Broadway revival. The score became known to an entire generation that saw Martin in an annual TV production in the 1960's and 70's.
Tickets are $25-$75. For information, call (212) 307-4100.