Peter Pan at the PNE keeps star Cathy Rigby eternally young

Long time Peter Pan actress Cathy Rigby retired from the iconic role in 2013, but is coming out of retirement to play "the boy who never grew up" at the PNE.

The Tony Award-nominee and former Olympic gymnast has come out of retirement to perform

Cathy Rigby says she is excited to fly again as Peter Pan, and hear the audience cheer for Peter to save Tinker Bell. (The Associated Press)

Actor and Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby has come out of retirement to once again play Peter Pan — and even though she's 62 years old, she feels like she never completely left Neverland.

"It keeps you young, and young at heart," said Rigby, who will perform the titular role in nightly performances of the musical at the Pacific National Exhibition.

"I've done it for about 3,000 performances and it never gets old."

Rigby has become iconic in the role of Peter Pan. She spent more than 30 years playing the role of "the boy who never grew up," on stage, after first performing the role in a 1974 movie adaptation of the musical.

Before that, she was an accomplished gymnast and is credited with raising the profile of the sport after her performance at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

'Like riding a rollercoaster'

After her many years of playing Peter Pan, she announced in 2013 she would be hanging up her tights.

But organizers at the PNE were able to convince her to again take the stage and present Peter Pan to a new generation of children.

"At first I was hesitant to do it," she said. "Then they told me about the venue and what was going on, and that kids would be able to come into the show and experience Peter Pan."

She said that even after all these years, she is still filled with wonder and surprise when she plays the role.

"Yes the lines are the same, and the music is similar. But there's an energy that starts the minute the music starts playing, and once Peter gets flying, it doesn't matter, it's like riding a rollercoaster."

Thrilling audiences of all ages

She said the performance brings a sense of wonder to the audience, regardless of their age of how many times they've seen the show.

"When you're flying over their heads, you see people young and old who are just with tears in their eyes, because they remember when they experienced the show for the first time, or they remember when they were little," she said.

"Anybody who's ever been a parent or is a parent looks at their children and says, 'If only they could remain this innocent and carefree and full of curiosity and joy.'"

Even though Rigby has to grow up and can't stay in Neverland like her character, the mindset of eternal youth is something she values dearly.

"I don't mind growing up, but I certainly love the fact that it reminds me of maintaining that child inside, because that's where you're creative, and that's where you take a little bit of risk, and you're willing to look at the world through different eyes," she said.

"It reminds me to keep doing that forever, as much as I can, as long as I live."


To hear the full interview click on the interview labelled: Cathy Rigby plays Peter Pan at PNE

With files from Vivian Luk