What this Wendy has learned from Peter Pan
There seems to be more ‘lost boys’ than usual flying around Los Angeles these days.
All of the added drama could perhaps be blamed on the fact that the production of "Peter Pan" has landed at not just one — but two — iconic theaters. The Disney animated classic is reeling over at the El Capitan, while down the street, Cathy Rigby's green tights are flying high from the rafters of the Pantages.
Now why would a hard-news reporter like me pay any attention to this kind of cultural phenomenon?
Duh. My name is “Wendy."
Sure, I am minus the “Darling” part … but throughout my whole life I have been well-aware that my name was made-up and then made famous by JM Barrie, the playwright who dared to imagine a place called Neverland.
I have long-since felt akin to this classic tale, seeing every possible adaptation of it. You could say, I have been ‘hooked’ ever since I was a kid. But as an adult, "Peter Pan" began to take on new and greater meanings — and take it from a Wendy — there are a lot of life lessons you can squeeze out of those tights.
Let’s begin by believing you can fly. Face it, without this lift, "Peter Pan" would have fallen flat. The most exhilarating part of the whole production is seeing the characters reach new heights. How do they do it –other than the wires? They think lovely thoughts. A simple enough idea any of us can apply when we need to rise to the occasion or elevate our current status.
In fact, I’m sure even R. Kelly had nothing but lovely thoughts in mind when he wrote and recorded his hit “I Believe I Can Fly." (I only wish he could have given a shout out to my boy JM when he accepted his Grammys).
All right, now on to the Tony’s — and the person who received one of those awards thanks to my boy wonder. I’m talking about Rigby. For her, "Peter Pan" has been the role of a lifetime. To say it would be a stretch to play the part at the age of 60 would be an understatement … that is, if we weren’t talking about Cathy Rigby.
The Olympic gymnast first flung herself into this role 40 years ago. So how does the she still make herself believable as an impish boy? My first guess would be botox. But the real answer involves injecting a youthful demeanor, eating right and training hard. My take-away? If Rigby can still flip, twist and turn on stage at 60, I sure as hell should be able to make it to an 8 a.m. spin class.
Now to Tinkerbell. Face it, “Tink” was a bitch. She’s just one of these girls who flits in and out and stirs up as much trouble as she can. Sure, she’s cute, petite and can really light up a room (blah, blah, blah). But, her flightiness is definitely a negative characteristic. This is not the woman you want to be involved with in anything long-term. (Not to mention she has a propensity for drinking poison.)
On the other hand, I have a very deep love for the Lost Boys. You see, I’ve spent years chasing after them. I’ve even followed some of them to the ends of the Earth. (That was during a regrettable stalking phase). Just like JM Barrie’s Wendy, I too, would try to mother the lost boys, seducing them with my stories, wearing a cute nightgown and never fully getting why they didn’t seem to want to grow up.
However, I can now happily admit that I am finally engaged to a life-long lost boy. I was even able to drag him (and his shadow) to the see "Peter Pan" with me. I guess, you could say our recent engagement has clipped his wings (although I do still hear him listening to R. Kelly every once and a while.)
Like any boy at heart, the fiancé loved the pirates. Try as I might to come up with some thought-provoking insight into what we can learn from these swashbuckling characters –other than the obvious "stay away from crocodiles" admonition. The only thing I could really come up with is that men wearing puffy shirts and/or too much eyeliner generally can’t be trusted.
But here is one universal theme from "Peter Pan" you can count on: Whatever production you may be starring in, it should be an "awfully big adventure." For Peter Pan, every story was a page-turner, every sword fight provided another great storyline — and even when faced with death Pete looked at the possibilities of his next great chapter.
As the curtain closed that night, I took a look at the audience as they began to exit. It was full of pirates, fairies and Tinkerbells (in other words, just your typical Hollywood crowd. I watched adults brush off the fairy dust that Rigby had sprinkled over them in her final flyover … and I smiled as kids scurried to pick the glittery specs up off of the floor.
I would have done the same, but I already have my take-away: a magic name, a Lost Boy to call my own and a whole lot of lovely thoughts.