When the musical revival of Peter Pan returns to Broadway in previews Nov. 20-22 at the Marquis Theatre, Neverland will be slightly different than in previous revivals.
Former gymnast Cathy Rigby, who has played the title role on tour for many years and appeared twice before with it on Broadway, will still fly and spread fairy dust. Official opening is Nov. 23, continuing a limited engagement through Jan. 3 prior to a restart of its national tour.
But what’s new in Neverland?
The Indian song known as “Ugg-a-Wugg” has been reinvented by choreographer Patti Colombo and director Glenn Casale. Just as it appeared on tour since November 1997, “Ugg-a-Wugg,” a once potentially offensive vision of Native American culture, is now reimagined as a percussive dance (a la Stomp) involving the Lost Boys and their Indian brethren. Rigby told Playbill On-Line earlier in the year the song now has a reduced lyric (less fake native language) and more energy and physical communal spirit.
Additional changes from what fans may recall from the original 1954 script and 1960s TV staging: 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 John Iacovelli is less literal and 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).
Broadway veteran Paul Schoeffler plays the villainous Captain James Hook, Elisa Sagardia plays Wendy, Drake English (Michael) and Chase Kniffen (John) play the adventurous Darling children who leave the nest and fly off to Neverland with the boy who wouldn't grow up.
Barbara McCulloh is Mrs. Darling, Michael Nostrand portrays First Mate Smee, and Dana Solimando plays the Indian Princess Tiger Lily.
Shigeru Yaji designed the costumes and Martin Aronstein designed lighting. Craig Barna is musical director.
The cast also includes Aileen Quinn (Tootles), Doreen Chila (Twin), Janet Higgins (Twin), Scott Bridges (Slightly), Alon Williams (Curley), Sam Zeller (Starkey), Buck Mason (Nana/Crocodile), Danny Schmittler (Never bird), Kim Arnett, Michelle Berti, William Alan Coates, Casey Good, Randy Davis, Jeffrey Elsass, Roger Preston Smith, Tony Spinosa and Brian Shepard.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this Pan is that 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" 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. The truss itself is 12" tall by 8" deep by 50' long and breaks into three sections. Our track is inside the truss. The harness is a nylon webbing with neoprine padding (like what scuba divers wear, thin but dense), so the weight is dispersed over a larger span. We don't use leather straps and buckles; we have quick-release snap buckles that are easier to conceal."
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 Won’t Grow Up,” "I've Got To Crow," "Neverland," "Distant Melody" and "Hook's Waltz."
Sandy Duncan starred in the '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.
Peter Pan is produced by McCoy Rigby Entertainment, The Nederlander Organization and La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in association with Albert Nicciolino, Larry Payton and Lynn Singleton. Tickets are $25 $75. For information, call (212) 307-4100.