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Peter Pan

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Scottish author J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan as a stage play in 1904. He wanted Adele Astaire, Fred’s sister, to play the part of Peter. She declined the opportunity and is now remembered, if at all, solely as Fred Astaire’s sibling – rather than as a star in her own right.

Fifty years later, in 1954 and with the help of composer Moose Charlap and lyricist Carolyn Leigh (with additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and some musical add-ons by Jule Styne), Jerome Robbins shaped Barrie’s coming-of-age fairytale into a Broadway musical. It premiered that October at the Winter Garden Theatre for a limited engagement of 152 performances; the title character was played by Mary Martin, who earned the Tony Award for her efforts.

In a 1979 Broadway revival of Peter Pan, the role of Peter was played to great acclaim by the puckish Sandy Duncan. The show was again restaged in 1991(actually Pan had three Broadway revivifications in the 1990s) starring Olympian champion gymnast Cathy Rigby in the eponymous part.

With each of these three actresses inhabiting the role of the boy who didn’t want to grow up, at intervals of approximately two decades apart, it’s as if each generation from the second half of the twentieth century has had its own definitive portrayal of Peter Pan and by a female, no less. (While Martin did win the Tony for her work as Peter; both Duncan and Rigby were nominated for their performances in the role.)

And now our era's quintessential Peter, Cathy Rigby, is at it again and still going strong in the latest staging of this ageless conceit – at the luxuriant La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, through June 24.

Under Glenn Casale's enchanting direction and with Bruce Barnes' exquisite musical direction of the  live four-piece orchestra (orchestrations and vocal arrangements by Keith Levenson), as well as Patti Colombo's fetching choreography, this Peter Pan is as vivid and delightful a theater experience as a family searching for G-rated entertainment is likely to find – short of a Disney endeavor, that is.

With over a dozen song and dance routines, and two dozen performers of all ages strutting their stuff in this two-hour extravaganza, each player exhibits what appears to be their personal best. Everyone onstage in this high-quality Peter Pan production displays skills that rival the very best in theater today.

Anchored by Rigby’s pugnacious Peter – the I Gotta Crow number is Rigby at her boyish best – we in the audience easily suspend our disbelief as we are transported to Neverland. The aerial feats so daringly done by Rigby are a show in themselves. Let us not forget, despite her long established credibility as an actress, Rigby was and (arguably) is a world-class athlete – and she wows us with her physical prowess as much as with her characterization.

Along the way we encounter Captain Hook – Brent Barrett is delightfully despicable in his over-the-top depiction of the less-than-honorable Hook, and oh how silky are this Captain’s baritone vocals. Hook’s band of pirate underlings (James Leo Ryan is the scene-snatching pirate Smee) are each funny and show-worthy, as are the so-called Lost Boys (all wonderful). Dane Wagner as Slightly Soiled is especially winning, and, as Tiger Lily, Jenna Wright is consummate in her interpretation of this physically challenging role.

One of many highlights in this production is the rendition of the drum intensive Ugg-a-Wugg, performed with perfection by Peter, Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys. It is a rousingly, theatrically primitive percussion piece that’s likely to bring the most stifled audience member to toe-tapping, seat-pounding ecstasy.

Peter Pan is a fable of sorts, with complex implications regarding issues of human development, from infancy to maturational ascendancy. In truth, however, to metaphorically fly, like Peter Pan does literally, we must become responsible for ourselves and the caretaker of others. Therein lays the bitter amidst the sweetness that is Peter Pan.

Peter Pan continues at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts – 14900 La Mirada Boulevard, La Mirada – through June 24. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For reservations, dial (562) 944 -9801. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.lamiradatheatre.com.


 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.