Despite numerous remakes on stage, screen, and TV, many with digital special effects, this 1954 musical version of "Peter Pan," J.M. Barrie's immortal play about the flying boy who wouldn't grow up, still has the power to enchant audiences of all ages. The headliner of the first production of this edition was Mary Martin, and the role was tailored for her talents. The lovable Martin slyly played on her femininity, creating an androgynous creature who teases the foppish pirate leader, Captain Hook. But Rigby is definitely all boy. She may not possess Martin's trumpetlike voice, but she utilizes her athletic training to great advantage, not only when flying but just moving about John Iacovelli's storybook sets. Rigby more than makes up for her lack of vocal ability by throwing herself completely into Peter's antics. She makes him a Cockney urchin, continually curious about his surroundings, reluctant to sit still, and constantly standing on his head or crawling over the furniture in the Darling nursery or the exotic landscape of Never Never Land. She also captures Peter's reluctance to age and how it affects him when the time for play is over and Wendy takes the lost boys home with her. The uncomprehending anger at being abandoned once again is clearly etched on Rigby's face.
Tom Hewitt is a deliciously droll Captain Hook and a pompous patriarch as Mr. Darling. Krista Buccellato makes a charming Wendy. Especially valuable contributions are made by the lost boys, led by Dane Wagner's rambunctious Slightly. This pack of scrubby runaways really seems to have scrambled for survival on a tropical island. Jenna Wright is equally savage as the Indian princess Tiger Lily, performing Patti Colombo's exuberant choreography energetically. When the Indians and the boys get together in the wild "Ugg-a-Wugg" number, the rafters ring with the brutal beating of tom-toms and it becomes an almost scary celebration of childhood freedom, like something out of "Lord of the Flies." Kim Crosby is a warm and comforting Mrs. Darling, and James Leo Ryan is an adorably wicked Smee, Hook's henchman.
While Glenn Casale's production is obviously made to tour, with the pieces of Iacovelli's charming set ready to store and pack at a moment's notice, it doesn't appear cheap or threadbare. Casale's staging flows smoothly and is full of surprises, as is Michael Gilliam's inventive lighting. Musical director Keith Levenson makes the small orchestra sound like a much larger one, and they give a lush accounting of the evergreen score. The aerial sequences, designed by Paul Rubin, rival those of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark."
This "Peter Pan" may be familiar, but like a holiday visit with a favorite cousin, it's a warm and cheerful yuletide treat.
Presented by McCoy Rigby Entertainment, Nederlander Presentations, and Albert Nocciolino, in association with Larry Payton, Michael Filerman, Heni Koenigsberg, and La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Ave., NYC. Dec. 14–30. Schedule varies. (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com. Casting by Julia Flores.