By Addie Clark
Just think of lovely things and your heart will fly on wings to Never Never Land.
I was very excited when, not long after The Sound of Music Live!, NBC announced that they would be putting another family musical the following year. And even more excited when they announced it would be Peter Pan. When I was a child, I wore out the 1955 Mary Martin production on VHS.
Tonight, NBC put on their ambitious production of Peter Pan Live. In some ways it was traditional: Peter was played by a woman (Allison Williams), a tradition which dates back to the original production of Sir JM Barrie’s play. But Nana, the children’s dog nanny, was an actual dog, not a person in a dog costume. Tinkerbell was CGI, not a spotlight zooming across the stage.
The production started strong. The set was amazing to behold. The dog that played Nana was surprisingly well trained, Kelli O’Hara is an amazing talent and sang a beautiful Mrs Darling, and the children playing John and Michael weren’t too terribly annoying (as child actors in plays can be). Taylor Louderman’s Wendy was a touch on the annoying side, but got better as the night went on. But it was Allison Williams who stole the scene from the moment she flew in the window (not backwards like she’d expressed she’d feared she would). Her voice isn’t powerful, but it was still beautiful. And when they flew out the window to Never Never Land, I found myself grinning like a fool.
But when they got to Never Never Land, I lost a little of the magic. The set was still beautiful. But the Lost Boys, the Indians, and the Pirates…well, they took a little bit of warming up to. Except Christian Borle, who pulled double duty as both Smee and Mr Darling, but was a better funny man (Smee) than authority figure (Mr Darling). I don’t know what it was, but the others needed a little help. And Christopher Walken as Captain Hook took some warming up to. But the bumpers during the commercials of him still holding his end notes were hilarious!
But then Williams was back and they were building a lovely house for Wendy. And the magic had returned. The next time Walken appeared, it was better, keeping in mind that in this particular adaptation, he’s always been a little weird and crazy. All in all, Walken took some warming up to…but you had to be open to it. And Walken and Williams together worked better than I expected, though their final battle was slightly underwhelming.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about the dancing! The dancing and all the musical numbers were so fantastic. Even Walken, who boasted this would be the “dancingest Hook” audiences had ever seen, delivered (much to my surprise). Most of the Lost Boys were hot off the recently closed “Newsies” and didn’t disappoint after their initial appearance. And the Pirates were fabulous as dancers and comic relief.
Overall, Peter Pan Live proved magical enough to overlook the places it faltered. Part of that probably stemmed from the fact that I haven’t seen any version of Peter Pan recently, which meant I wasn’t comparing it to anything else (which is part of what ruined The Sound of Music for most). As a friend put it, it was ridiculously fun. I can’t wait to see what show NBC tackles next holiday season.