Brent Barrett, sporting pirate hat and sneer, gets his Hook into the fantasy of ‘Peter Pan’
Preview: The all-around musical star likes the fit of Captain Hook’s campy attire, and his sails are set for Chicago in the national tour of “Peter Pan” opening Jan. 30 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
By Lawrence B. Johnson
Brent Barrett calls his latest stage fling, as Captain Hook in the national touring company of “Peter Pan,” a 180-degree turn from his most recent starring role in Chicago—the wealthy but world-weary Ben in Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
The “Peter Pan” run, with veteran Cathy Rigby in the title role, has been a blast, he says, a Broadway broadside: the furthest thing from walking the plank.
“We have a wonderful company and Cathy is just amazing,” says Barrett of the former Olympic gymnast who has charmed two decades of theater-goers as the boy who refused to grow up. “She just turned 60 in December and she’s a dynamo, so centered and focused. No one can believe her. She’s doing cartwheels, tumbling, flying around. It takes your breath.”
Presented by Broadway in Chicago, the musical “Peter Pan” opens Jan. 30 for a two-week stay at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
In the cherished line of Mary Martin, who created the role on Broadway in 1954, and Sandy Duncan, who starred in the 1979 revival, Cathy Rigby has virtually owned the part of Peter Pan for the last two decades. Barrett suggested this could well be her farewell tour in the role.
“I did ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ on tour with Cathy 20 years ago. When that ended, I was invited to tour with her in ‘Peter Pan,’ but I demurred,” Barrett says. “It just wasn’t something I wanted to do then, and now I’m so glad I waited. I think this will be Cathy’s last hurrah with the show. It’s a good time for me to be doing it. It might just be the age I’m at. Another generation is bringing their kids to see ‘Peter Pan.’
“You find yourself going, going, going—as an actor always worrying about what the next job is. Doing this show is a reminder that we all have a certain span on this earth, and it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to spend that time, how we’re going to live our lives. I think that’s why ‘Peter Pan’ appeals to every age. It’s about never losing that child inside, that sense of wonder and adventure, but it’s also about putting your priorities in order.”
Barrett admits to a deep-seated delight in making his first appearance on stage each night as the nasty pirate captain. (He shows up earlier as Mr. Darling, the father of Wendy and John.) Hook’s arrival is a great moment of campy fun.
“In my big hat and frock coat, all I have to do is walk on and stand,” he says, and the audience becomes a high rolling sea of merriment. “We didn’t want Hook to be foppish. We wanted kids to be a little scared of him, but he needs to be funny at the same time.”
And after each performance, youngsters queue up at the stage door in hopes of getting a glimpse of the star-characters, not entirely able to make the distinction between character and star: Cathy Rigby, who can’t actually fly after all, and Brent Barrett, sans hat and sneer. The kids always have questions.
“One little boy about 7 years old asked me if I was Capt. Jack Sparrow,” says Barrett with a laugh, referring to the Johnny Depp character in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series.
Then, of course, there’s the stage-door question Barrett can always depend on from some suspicious kid:
“Where’s your hook?”
- Performance dates and times: Details at BroadwayinChicago.com
- J.M. Barrie’s original story of “Peter Pan”: Read it at gutenberg.org
Photo captions and credits: Home page and top: Brent Barrett plays the dreaded Captain Hook in “Peter Pan.” Descending: The pirate captain (Brent Barrett) flashes his menacing hook. Cathy Rigby stars as Peter Pan. Below: Captain Hook (Brent Barrett, left) and Peter Pan (Cathy Rigby) match swords. (Production photos by Isaac James)