The opening of the Broadway musical Peter Pan at the Mansion Theatre Branson this spring could open up the possibility of more musical theater coming to the area.
“Musical theater is a great idea for Branson,” said Lynn Berry, with the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. “There has been some musical theater in Branson, including the ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’ show. The addition of a show like ‘Peter Pan,’ which has played on Broadway, will bring in a lot of visitors.”
Former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby, who stars in “Peter Pan,” said she thinks Branson could become a “musical theater mecca.”
“This would be a great place to bring in more musicals,” Rigby said. “I’ve spent 10 of the last 30 years performing across the country and (the Mansion Theatre) is the most amazing theater I’ve ever been at. As far as production goes, there is so much we can do with this building. We are going to have to be careful that we don’t over-produce the story.”
Rigby said she was impressed with the talent level of performing artists in Branson.
“There are a lot of talented people here,” she said. “Holding auditions here was a great idea and we got a great cast out of it.”
Rigby said musical theater has an appeal that would fit well with Branson.
“Musical theater has the ability to entertain people of all ages,” she said. “Take (‘Peter Pan’), for instance. This is a story that binds generations together.”
She added that audiences get a different kind of experience from musical theater.
“During the show when Tinker Bell is dying, I ask the audience, ‘Do you believe?’” Rigby said. “It’s amazing to hear 3,000 people yell ‘yes.’ That’s powerful.”
She also said musical theater can affect anyone.
“I once received a letter from a little boy who saw the show,” Rigby said. “He said ‘I know you’re really a girl and I saw the wires making you fly, but I’ll leave my window open anyway. Maybe you can take me to Neverland.’ That is the impact that musical theater can have on people.”
Larry Wilhite, general manager of the Mansion Theatre, said he is excited about the possibilities for “Peter Pan.”
“We’re doing something a little different and we hope people will respond positively,” Wilhite said. “This season may show us whether musical theater will work in Branson. I think it will be great.”