I only watched some of ‘Peter Pan Live” on NBC three or so nights ago, but I gave it a B minus. The “flying” was klutzy, but the actors on the whole did a good job. I understand the singing was not actually live, which seems like cheating and rather negates the fun of it being live at all.
The reviews, which have been mixed but mostly meh, missed a lot of points, though. One reviewer complained there was no live audience reacting to it, which killed it for her. I may be forgetting, but I don’t think the old Mary Martin television version had a live audience either. A couple of reviewers didn’t seem to realize Peter Pan Live (PPL) was a revival of a 1954 musical (Mary Martin? who?). One thought it was the 1904 or whatever play set to music, and another thought it was too “British” and that the actress who played Mrs. Darling, Wendy et al.’s mother, was “underused.”
There were also complaints about the three hour time, and one review said that the show had been padded with songs from other musicals. Was it? I watched parts of it and may have missed those. The frequent commercial breaks didn’t help, though.
Best tweet: “It needed more cowbell.”
A few things that bothered me —
I remember the Tiger Lily tribe as being children, or at least they were like children. I saw a video of the Mary Marin production (MMPP) not many years ago and remember the tribe riding 1950s-style kiddie scooters and maybe a couple of tricycles. In PPL, the Tiger Lily tribe were not just adult men; they were a muscular crew wearing skimpy costumes. Under most circumstances I’m happy to watch muscular dancing men in skimpy costumes, but in PPL I confess it made me a little uncomfortable. Good thing the feathered loin cloths stayed in place, although a wardrobe malfunction probably would have been a real “first” for NBC and boosted DVD-Blu Ray sales.
It’s traditional for the same actor to play Mr. George Darling, Wendy et al.’s father, and Captain Hook. There was an earlier musical version (music by Leonard Bernstein) that had Boris Karloff playing Papa/Hook. Cyril Ritchard was Mr. Darling and Captain Hook in MMPP, and I’ve sometimes wondered if Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow wasn’t at least partly inspired by Ritchard’s Hook. Or maybe I read that somewhere. Anyway, in PPL Christopher Walken played Captain Hook only. The same actor (Christian Borle) who played Mr. Smee was also Mr. Darling, although I didn’t realize that until I looked it up, because the two characters bore no resemblance to each other. Even so, that doesn’t send the same message.
The larger point is that in MMPP, Neverland was a land of children, and the villainous pirates were the only adults. The pirates, led by a captain who subliminally represented Father, an adult authority, were infuriated by or perhaps jealous of youth itself. In PPL, not only was the Tiger Lily tribe adult, but some of the Lost Boys clearly were old enough to shave, and had been for a few years. So the subtle psychological undertones were muddled.
I give PPL points for casting an actual dog actor, Bowdie, in the role of Nana. The crocodile was not played by an actual crocodile, but was a hoot and definitely underused. Christopher Walken underplayed Hook, which seemed a little out of step with the general rah-rah of the rest of the cast, but reviewers mostly loved him. I thought Allison Williams was fine as PP, although her singing voice is less robust than was Mary Martin’s. And, of course Allison Williams isn’t Mary Martin, who developed the musical and that role for herself and pretty much owns it even now.
Many of us children of the 1950s fondly remember being allowed to stay up to watch the black and white, not technically sophisticated Peter Pan with Martin and Ritchard. Whether children in the age of CGI graphics feel the same about PPL, who knows? The ending, with Wendy’s daughter flying off with Peter Pan, strikes me as a bit creepy now. And the strings were showing. Maybe the thing really is past its prime.
I understand ratings fell short of what was expected, but you don’t run a three-hour-long children’s program on a school night. Duh, NBC.