Peter Foy, who revolutionized stage flying for the original Broadway production of the musical “Peter Pan” in 1954, died Feb. 17 in Las Vegas of natural causes. He was 79.
Born in London, as a child, he was fascinated by James M. Barrie’s tale of “Peter Pan,” a story that would have a significant influence on his life.
At the age of 15, Foy first flew on a slim steel wire in a production of “Where The Rainbow Ends.” When the show’s stage manager was hospitalized, he also assumed those duties, which included the supervision of Kirby’s Flying Machines and the flying actors. He continued to act on stage and in film, joining the Royal Air Force in 1942 as a Navigator and Entertainment Officer.
After the war, he went to work for Joseph Kirby, which brought him to New York as the flying supervisor for a 1950 Broadway production of “Peter Pan,” starring Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff. He began to refine the Kirby equipment, developing a system he called the Inter-related Pendulum, which made possible the soaring aerial choreography that helped define Mary Martin’s performance as Peter Pan for the 1954 Broadway musical, and for the live NBC telecast of the show in 1956.
Peter left Kirby to form his own company, Flying By Foy, in 1957. He went on to introduce the Floating Pulley system and the Track on Track system which could be adapted to various types of theatrical and film productions.
His creation of the Multi-Point Balance Harness for the 1965 movie “Fantastic Voyage” set a standard still used today for flying actors on film.
Foy was awarded the 1990 International Entertainment Safety Award from the U.S. Institute of Theater Technology for his contributions to “safeguarding human life and elevating the task of flying people with rigging to an art form”.
Flying By Foy has provided theatrical flying effects for thousands of stage productions, operas, ballets, rock concerts, film and television shows worldwide. The company has flown three Broadway productions of “Peter Pan” and originated the flying for “Superman,” “Angels in America,” “Tommy,” “Aida” and “The Lion King.”
Recent Broadway projects include “Man of LaMancha,” “Dracula, the Musical,” “Spamalot” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
He is survived by his wife, Barbara; a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.
Donations may be made to: The Actors’ Fund of America, 729 Seventh Avenue, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10019.