Magazine article The New Yorker

Grown Up

Magazine article The New Yorker

Grown Up

Article excerpt

"I won't grow up!" is the mantra of many a grad student and Botox injectee, but the line belongs to Peter Pan, and specifically to Cathy Rigby, the former Olympic gymnast who has played the role onstage since 1990. Last month, Rigby and her Lost Boys passed through town for an engagement at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Two days before opening, she celebrated her fifty-ninth birthday at Bar Americain with her husband, Tom McCoy, with whom she runs the tour's production company. She wore a chiffon scarf and bright lipstick, with earrings twinkling beneath her blond bob, and looked neither like a little boy nor like a grandmother of four.

Rigby estimates that she has played more than three thousand performances as Peter Pan. Her last stop in New York was in 2005, on her "farewell tour." After a special performance in Missouri two years ago, she decided that she missed the role and longed to return to Neverland. But she had doubts. "I didn't want age to be a factor," she said, sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio. "I didn't want physical abilities to be an issue. I thought, O.K., how can I be a better dancer, a better flyer, a better little boy, and how can I not get injured?" She hired a trainer, a brawny ex-marine, who put her on a routine of Pilates and cardio. "When I'm on tour, the show keeps me in amazing shape, because the flying is all about core," she went on. "In the very first scene there are three songs, an aerial ballet, 'I Gotta Crow'--you're running around like a small child for the entire first act." By now, she is well versed in the role's physical demands, which include handstands, tom-tom playing, and sword fighting (tennis elbow is a concern). "When you're fighting Captain Hook, you don't just swing wildly," Rigby said. "There's a lot of form to it."

"Cathy's fifty-nine years old today, and she's never been better in this role," McCoy, a folksy-dad type, said. "It's a little frightening! I think she sold her soul to the Devil. She did something bad."

"Maybe I did something good," Rigby said.

"You must be sacrificing chickens in the back yard."

"I'm living with you, honey. That keeps me young," Rigby said, clutching his hand. The couple live in La Habra Heights, California, with two dogs, fourteen koi, twenty-two finches, and a cockatoo. …

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