To be honest, I’ve not been an aficionado of Broadway musicals or shows of other stripes. Nor have I attended Broadway musicals in a way that could be described as more than sporadically and that’s over a lifetime. At best, I can name about two hands worth of shows on Broadway that I saw in person. West Side Story, Cats, Hair, Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, The Lion King, Aida (not the Verdi opera but rather it was the Tim Rice/Elton John production) and maybe Sound of Music. But since this post is about Peter Pan, I definitely can say that I saw Peter Pan in person during the Cathy Rigby/Broadway era. Only Rigby had the night off when I saw it.
Which meant that I was all-in, for some still undefined reasons (that may have had something to with that failed series Smash) to watch last year’s NBC production of The Sound Of Music. There’s no way that I would say that Carrie Underwood was the next coming of either Mary Martin or Julie Andrews. But the live production was the first such production of a Broadway musical on live television in 50 years, and that certainly added to the allure. I was definitely not in the same camp as the Haters who set the Twitter world ablaze with vitriolic about the production. I rather enjoyed the show.
Thank you Rodgers and Hammerstein for your memorable words and music in that place where the hill were alive.
Which brings me to Thurday night’s NBC production called Peter Pan Live. I don’t believe any one who tweets, blogs, texts, or instagrams is ready to say that Peter Pan’s music/lyrics is or was better than The Sound of Music’s.
There were a lot of discussions yesterday, and more today, in every newspaper and all over the internet, about how the viewing numbers for Pan Live were down about 50% from last year. There are a number of reasons for that – first, the novelty of a Broadway show on TV was no longer that much of a novelty. Second, the Sound of Music, at least to me, was more of an adult story than Peter Pan. Third, the schedule of a Thursday night was a mistake from the jump, as there was a NFL football game on at the same time, and finally, a three-hour TV show running from 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM on a school night would be most likely a problem for parents with younger elementary school aged children as the show would go far past ‘normal’ bed times.
But, not being an NBC executive or an advertiser, my interest in the ‘numbers talk’ has no useful purpose. What ever the numbers, most of us watch TV in our homes rather than in public auditoriums. So if I am home watching Peter Pan, I’ve no interest in whether or not the people across the hall, the couple with a six-year-old boy, are watching the show or not.
It seems that there is a great divide in the opinions on the quality of the performances. I for one didn’t much care for Christopher Walken as Hook. He sorely lacked the energy that I was expecting from a pirate captain. At his age, he may still be able to do a relaxed soft shoe kind of theatrical stage dancing, but his voice wasn’t able to project as such a role, captain of a band of brigands, likely calls for.
Maybe that’s because my idea of a pirate is more likely anchored to the likes of Robert Newton’s Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. What I’m saying is that a pirate captain without a beard, and an eye patch, and a wooden stump in lieu of a leg, somehow seems bereft. Of course it can be argued that such an opinion is only an expression of remembering something from my own childhood.
But isn’t that the whole point of Peter Pan. Pan is a boy who won’t grow up, living in a place called Neverland, where one never ages. Where one is eternally youthful. Where boys will forever be boys.
And yet, Pan is always played by a woman. Allison Williams as Pan was not a train wreck of a performance. She didn’t fail, or crash and burn. Rather, while harnessed and hooked up to the visible (at times) wires, she had the capability of flight. Which will always be exciting when you see it as a child for the first time. As an adult it is less thrilling, but it is a constant in Peter Pan, and young children will always be thrilled by author J.M. Barrie‘s flights of imagination.
Williams did well with I’m Flying, and I’ll Never Grow Up, and even I Gotta Crow – but these are the only three songs that I can name.
I was less than enthralled by Michael Darling’s constant kicking as he had to learn to fly. Waving of the arms would have been better.
I thought the Lost Boys seemed a tad older than my expectations. As I recall, they’re not called Lost Men.
The tick-tock-croc was fun even as it stretched the imagination to a place beyond the limits, or boundaries. On the other hand, the real dog Nana was wonderful.
Was it me, or has Christian Borle been ingesting some sort of physical mass enhancers. I don’t recall Borle’s Tom Levitt in the 2012-2013 failed Smash series being anything close to muscular. But those arms as Smee – definitely looked like Hulk Hogan’s Pythons.
I liked the line by Hook – I’ve set up the plank on the poop. Was that a 2014 penned line – or was that in the original?
I’ve read that NBC is calling this a new tradition. A live rendering of a theatrical classic shall be NBC’s new calling card. I’ve heard that next year’s production will be The Music Man, which I’ve never seen or heard in any way, shape, or format. Except for Ya Got Trouble, Right Here in River City.
I was hoping for West Side Story.