Waiting for Cathy Rigby at Starbuck’s was almost as torturous as waiting for the premiere of Magic Mike. I sat like I will on opening night, August 7, in the midst of the generations of “Pan fans,” moments before the Fabulous Fox curtains peel away reality leaving us with fairy dust and an unfolding musical adventure. Luckily, Cathy bopped through the door right on time – her eyes twinkling full of excitement, dressed in a stylish and sassy outfit that would make every Southern gay nod and smirk with approval.
Anxious to begin, I grabbed a table by the window. Cathy enthusiastically launched into her joy for the return of Peter Pan to the Fox Theatre, while modestly paying homage and respect to the actresses who performed eternal youth prior to her Rigby reign, “It’s really wonderful. You want to leave a legacy and something positive and I feel it; I feel it now. As probably Mary Martin and Sandy Duncan did.” The nearly 60-year old Cathy was the first to admit, “I’m not 20 years old,” with an honest but unapologetic charming smile; still she will flip, twirl, tumble, drum and soar across the stage and beyond with ease and poise.
Pirates, Indians, Mermaids and Lost Boys, Oh My! That sounds more like Halloween at Blake’s than Neverland… Regardless, Neverland is a place filled with adventures and luxuries beyond our wildest imaginations. My Neverland would have Pottery Barn page 72’s bedroom suite attached to my own Sephora with bottomless strawberry mojitos and fountains of Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Hops’pitality. Impetuous as she is, before the question was even asked, Cathy stated her Neverland is right outside her own backdoor. Like a child with a new toy, she whipped out her trusty smartphone and quickly scrolled through photo after photo. (The experience was unusually delightful; sitting at a Starbuck’s without being asked to judge Grindr profile pictures. This must be how “the straights” live.) Cathy proudly presented images of a garden only found in Wonderland – complete with a large mushroom – reminiscent of the lost boys’ on-stage chimney, a 250 pound brass turtle, a cockatoo and an explosion of colorful flowers. Cathy calls this her “fairy garden.”
Speaking of fairies… When asked to give a wink to the David readers, Cathy chimed “I have fairy dust, I have fairies; I have ALL of that in Neverland!” All she needs is a rainbow and she will be her own Atlanta Pride Parade. “I’m a cross-dresser! I cross dress every night; I wear men’s clothing.” Cathy and Romeo Lee from My Sister’s Room should talk – the two have much in common.
Overjoyed to be back in Atlanta again, rich in accents and chivalry, Cathy has the jargon down; “She is such a b***h; bless her heart” she joked. The accent needs no work, either, as Lady Rigby has also portrayed the character of M’Lynne from antebellum favorite Steel Magnolias. Throughout our frappucinos, Cathy slipped in and out of different characters – from M’Lynne to Peter Pan, and Sylvia the dog to the Cat in the Hat; each character more real and captivating than the next.
An amazing trait of the classic tale Peter Pan is the story’s immortality; the story holds no age boundaries across lifetimes, touching both young and old. Through organizations such as Make-a-Wish, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell’s fairy dust are able to grant the wish of flight. The children will be safely secured in their harnesses and wires, Peter Pan will then blow fairy dust on the children and instruct “think lovely thoughts” and up they go! Cathy recalls, “the children wriggle and kick their legs and start laughing, just laughing!” One particular little girl touched Cathy when she cheered “Dreams really do come true!” in mid-air of the Darling nursery.
The timeless and magical tale of Peter Pan will soar back into Atlanta with new cast members, new acrobatic tricks, a new generation of dreamers and even more magical moments than before. Is that even possible? She cannot explain it, all the expressive Cathy can force is “I can feel it; we can all feel it.” There is a sparkle in her eye which makes me feel foolish to contemplate doubting, even for a second.
Before I can even blink, it is back to reality and our time in Neverland has come to an end. But wait – “Fairy dust!” Cathy joyfully announces. I looked up and there he was, sitting before me, none other than Peter Pan – and he cupped his hands and happily blew fairy dust all over me… and all over Starbuck’s. “I make a mess wherever I go” Cathy teased as she skipped out the door in her Prada shades.
It is no surprise the gays are the “lost boys” of Atlanta, never growing up; and I would like to think I am your beloved Tinkerbell. Fly away with me boys and girls, to a place where dreams are born and time is never planned, at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, August 7-12. Tickets are on sale at www.foxatltix.com. Until then, may the second star to the right shine bright for each and every one.