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Cathy Rigby

Flying High As Peter Pan

As her performing talent developed Rigby was finding herself cast in musicals where she could display her range. She starred in such shows as Meet Me in St. Louis, They're Playing Our Song, and South Pacific. But her best-known role came with a lavish revival of Peter Pan that made it to Broadway in 1991 (she had done an arena version of the show as early as 1974). The title role seemed tailor-made for Rigby, who not only mastered the strenuous flying sequences but also added her own signature flourishes, such as using a stairway railing as a balance beam. Critics were impressed: Martin Schaeffer of Back Stage commented on Rigby's "surprisingly strong performance." Rigby's voice "is strong," he noted, "and she's able to muster the needed degree of poignancy for such evergreens as [the ballad] 'Neverland.'" An "all-around delight" is how Nelson Pressley of Washington Times saw Rigby in a 1998 tour. "She is more than merely cute as Peter Pan. She knows the magical boy is a bit of a brat and deeply lonely, and these darker qualities come through easily." Rigby was nominated for the 1991 Tony Award as best musical actress, the first Olympian to be so recognized.

Chronology

1952 Born December 12, in Long Beach, California
1961 Begins gymnastics training
1968 Represents U.S. at Olympic summer games, Mexico City, Mexico
1972 Represents U.S. at Olympic summer games, Munich, Germany
1972 Retires from gymnastics competition
1972 Begins career as commentator and actress
1973 Marries first husband, Tommy Mason
1974 Stage debut in arena version of Peter Pan
1982 Makes public her longtime eating disorder
1982 Marries second husband, Tom McCoy
1991 Broadway debut in Peter Pan
1997 Appears in television movie, Perfect Body
1998 Narrates video Cathy Rigby on Eating Disorders
2000 Produces video version of Peter Pan
2002 Appears in Seussical: The Musical

There seemed but one hurdle left for the athlete—conquering her eating disorder. In 1981, with her marriage to Mason dissolving, Rigby met fellow actor Tom McCoy, who encouraged her to face her problem. Part of his intervention was based on pure "vanity," as Rigby noted in People. "He said, 'You [have] circles under your eyes, your hair is falling out and you look older.' For the first time I listened to somebody." Rigby and McCoy married, and with psychiatric help she finally was cured of her bulimia. The couple went on to have two daughters, Theresa and Kaitlin, while Rigby added health advocate to her credentials. To that end, she took a role in a 1997 television movie Perfect Body, playing a gymnastics coach who warns a young girl of the dangers of starving herself to attain an unreasonable weight. She also narrated a video, Cathy Rigby on Eating Disorders.

By 1998 Rigby—healthy and accomplished—had been performing on-and-off in Peter Pan for twenty years. But even after two decades "she never seems to be going through the paces as she charms the Darling children and the audience with her tough-talking, good-hearted attitude," according to Variety reviewer Christopher Isherwood. "Her affection for the role seems freshly minted, and her exuberant singing is wining. The show really takes wing whenever she does." Rigby admitted in Kendt's article, "I love doing long runs, because some nights you go out there and … it just happens. You're just alive, and no matter how you feel that day, it works."

Awards and Accomplishments

1968 Highest-placed American (sixteenth), Olympic summer games
1968 World Cup gold medalist
1970 U.S. Championships gold medalist
1970 World Championships silver medalist
1971 World Cup gold medalist and champion
1971 Riga Cup gold and bronze medalist
1971 South African Cup all-around champion
1971 U.S.-U.S.S.R. Dual Meet champion, floor exercise
1972 Highest-placed American (tenth), Olympic summer games
1972 U.S. Championships gold, silver, and bronze medalist
1972 Appeared on cover of Life magazine
1991 Tony Award nomination, Peter Pan
1998 Inducted into International Gymnastics Hall of Fame
2001 Ovation Award, Theatre L.A. board of governors

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsGymnasticsCathy Rigby Biography - Talented, But Torn, Off To The Olympics, Hiding A Painful Secret, Flying High As Peter Pan - CONTACT INFORMATION