If your eyes roll at the thought of a 60-year-old, two-time Olympic gymnast playing Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up, in a mammoth, Broadway-style musical you wouldn’t be alone. But don’t let your cynicism (or mine) keep you from enjoying this magical theatrical experience.
The minute Cathy Rigby’s Peter Pan flies into the open windows of the Darling family home, it’s clear this is no run-of-the-mill adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale. Rigby, the first American woman to win a medal in World Gymnastics competition, still flips, floats and tumbles like a teen. She also sings like a Tony-nominated musical theater vet while maintaining the tough, yet vulnerable demeanor of a young boy.
Serious adults may initially get distracted by the logistics of letting the family dog babysit even after a strange boy was seen peering in the windows, but children — and those grownups who are a bit less jaded — will be instantly captivated by the spectacle. Big, beautiful, oft-changing set pieces provide the perfect backdrop for Wendy and the boys to play out the ultimate childhood fantasy.
There are swashbuckling pirates, an evil Captain Hook (impressively played by Brent Barrett,) and a slithery Crocodile (Clark Roberts, who also doubles as family dog Nana). The beautiful Tiger Lily (Jenna Wright) charms boys of all ages and the drumming and dancing in her duet with Pan, “Ugg-a-Wugg,” provides an amazing musical theater moment for everyone.
In one of the show’s most climactic moments, Tinker Bell’s fate lies in the hands of the audience. A desperate plea by Peter — along with a great Boston shout-out by Rigby in this production — fills the theater with thunderous applause to revive Tink... and paves the way to a soaring finish that ensures that everyone leaves the show feeling young again.
"Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan" runs through April 28
Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston