Peter Pan must have been taking his Centrum Silver.
It has been nearly 20 years since Cathy Rigby vaulted into the role of the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up -- a character she subsequently played on Broadway several times -- and you'd think her interpretation would be a little long in the tooth by now. Indeed, the gymnast-turned-actress has announced that the current tour of "Peter Pan," the 1954 musical based on Sir James M. Barrie's century-old play, constitutes her farewell to Neverland.
But Captain Hook shouldn't break out the champagne yet. The good-humored extravaganza at Wolf Trap showcases a Peter who's still in fighting form. Turning back flips and cartwheels, swooping over the stage, scattering a blizzard of silver pixie dust, Rigby still flaunts the athleticism that took her twice to the Olympics. More importantly, she gives an uncanny depiction of a truculent small boy -- a guttersnipe hero, whose duels with pirates and magical aeronautics are fueled by the same hyperactivity that sets him bouncing on the beds in the Darling family nursery. Even the voice, honed to a mild Cockney accent, sounds like a belligerent urchin's.
And when this Peter swings Wendy's doll by its hair, or frets over his amputated shadow, or struts triumphantly around Hook's galleon, you can't help thinking that in the real world, he'd be dosed with Ritalin.
The other ingredients in the production, directed by Glenn Casale, are also beguiling, one part fairy-tale romanticism to two parts jovial humor.
Don't look here for the principle dark themes in Barrie's story -- all that disturbing subtext about aging and jealousy and parental abandonment. Most of the somber nuances have been fluffed out by the rather sugary music of Moose Charlap (additional music by Jule Styne) and the peppy dancing (Patti Colombo choreographed the brisk Indian ballet "Ugh-a-Wugg" and the other numbers).
Instead, you can enjoy the vaudevillian shtick of the goofy pirates, who break into tangos at a moment's notice. Portraying the pompous Captain Hook, Howard McGillin inspires the audience's hisses, but it's really Patrick Richwood, as a rubbery, sycophantic Mr. Smee, who steals all the buccaneer scenes.
McGillin and Tracy Lore swan graciously through the roles of the Darling parents in an early sequence; Elisa Sagardia is wistful and demure as Wendy; Lauren Masiello makes a muscular Tiger Lily; and the rest of the cast functions with professionalism and some flair.
Considering the logistical constraints of touring, John Iacovelli's scenery is agreeably atmospheric. Neverland's woods drip with red Spanish moss, and the blue shadows of the lagoon make an apt haunt for the creepy mermaids.
The elegant Edwardian decor of the Darling residence is elaborate enough to be effectively haunted by Tinker Bell (depicted, of course, by a twinkly light), who slams drawers and glows eerily through the windows of a doll's house.
Unfortunately, the acoustics at Wolf Trap don't do particularly well by "Peter Pan." The orchestrations frequently drown the lyrics, and the lines of the Darling boys (Gavin Leatherwood and Shawn Moriah Sullivan) are hard to understand. But enough of the show's wit and sprightliness filters through to give it liftoff, a worthy vehicle for the high-flying Rigby. She may have taken Peter Pan to a ripe old age, but she hasn't yet had a senior moment.
Peter Pan. A musical production of the play by Sir James M. Barrie. Music by Moose Charlap; Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh; additional music by Jule Styne; additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Directed by Glenn Casale. Costumes, Shigeru Yaji; lighting, Tom Ruzika; sound, Julie Ferrin; flying sequences, Paul Rubin. Approximately 2 hours 15 minutes. At Wolf Trap's Filene Center. Through July 24. Call 877-WOLFTRAP or visit www.wolftrap.org.