Cathy Rigby has been the definitive Peter Pan ever since the diminutive Olympic champion gymnast turned her sights on musical theater in 1974. As the obstacle young boy who will not grow up, she has flounced across the stage hundreds of times, earning Tony Award Nominations as Best Leading Actress in a Musical and Best Revival of a Musical.
Now she returns in a festive new production that belies her decision five years ago to shout her last hurrah in Never Never Land. The show makes its way to major cities through the country during the 2011-2012 season, pausing to enhance the shimmer and sparkle of Broadway's holiday season.
Rigby regards the role as an old friend. After coming off a production of 'Steel Magnolias,' she missed it so much she decided to do it again and confesses that she has never felt this happy and excited. Each production has brought in new audiences who keep coming back in multiple generations. This show is especially exciting because of the new sets and costumes and wonderful scenic design. Additionally, Rigby is using a double harness which is new and allows for more slipping around.
The big drumming number features talent actress Desiree Davar as Tiger Lily. The musical director, Keith Levenson, has rearranged the music to coordinate with the artistic aerial ballet in which she dances on silk, just like Cirque du Soleil.
Rigby is a ball of energy that transfers to all who work with her. Over the years, she has played many of theater's favorite musical heroines in such hits as 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Annie Get Your Gun,' 'South Pacific' and 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown,' collected television credits and headlined in Las Vegas. Along the way, she and her husband established the McCoy Rigby Series at La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts in California where their theatrical productions are a community highlight. It serves as a center where they train children in voice, acting, dance and other theatrical skills.
'I'm up for anything,' says the mother of four and grandmother of two, who will celebrate her 60th birthday on the road.
Her great pleasure is seeing the joy children get from performing. Not long ago, her company put on a production of 'Annie' with underprivileged children, one of the many opportunities she offers that change lives, help children forget themselves and gain confidence through the arts. The company also presents discovery arts at hospitals.
Rigby is equally adept at changing the lives of women with her motivational talks about maintaining good health and flexibility for a lifetime. Women, she believes, often doubted themselves. Many would not have thought it possible to set goals and challenge themselves to work harder until they succeed and realize that they are not over the hill.
She emphasizes that women must not put limits on what they are capable of doing and adores hearing how proud her grandchildren are when they tell others, 'My grandmother is Peter Pan.' ”