"I’ve Gotta Crow!": What to Expect from NBC’s 'Peter Pan Live!'

Mary Olsen ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Allison Williams in Peter Pan Live!. Photo Credit: Nino Munoz/NBC.
Allison Williams in Peter Pan Live!. Photo Credit: Nino Munoz/NBC.
Last year, NBC broadcasted a live version of The Sound of Music, which drew an audience of nearly 19 million.  It involved a star-studded cast including Carrie Underwood as Maria, Broadway stars such as Laura Benanti (Baroness Von Schrader), Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess), and NBC’s Smash star Christian Borle as Max.  This production was an enormous feat that NBC took on, but there were mixed reviews.  Most theatre enthusiasts were not impressed by the production.  It was courageous of the network to start this trend of televising live musicals with such an iconic show, but the incredible number of viewers proved that it was of interest to a vast audience across the nation.
NBC is once again delving into the vast collection of “classic” musicals to broadcast live at 8pm this December 4.  This time they have chosen a more youthful and fantastical story, Peter Pan.  This Peter Pan, however, is not the Disney version that is familiar to most young adults who were children when it was released.  This stage musical was produced on Broadway in 1954 (according to Musical Theater International).  It is based on J.M. Barrie’s children’s book of the same title, just as the Disney version, but the songs are very different despite the similar characters.  The original songs by composer Morris “Moose” Charlap and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh will be featured in NBC’s version, as well as some additional songs by Jule Styne.
This cast features many stars from television and film as well as even more performers from Broadway, making it well-rounded in the interest of Broadway buffs and those who occasionally enjoy musicals (and may not be as familiar with stage performers).  The most familiar face in this production has to be Christopher Walken as the swash-buckling scaredy-cat Captain Hook. Walken does have a history in the theatre having won two Tony Awards (one of which for Actor in a Musical in James Joyce’s The Dead in 2000) according to the Playbill Vault.
Allison Williams and Christopher Walken in Peter Pan Live!. Photo Credit: Nino Munoz/NBC.
Allison Williams and Christopher Walken in Peter Pan Live!. Photo Credit: Nino Munoz/NBC.
The cast also includes Allison Williams from Girls in the title roll and some theatre stars including Christian Borle (Mr. Darling/ Mr. Smee), Kelli O’Hara (Mrs. Darling), Minnie Driver (Narrator/ Adult Wendy), and Ryan Steele (Lost Boy “Curly”).  The Broadway actors are more trained for live performances, and Borle is clearly familiar with how NBC handles these live shows considering he was a part of The Sound of Music Live! last year.  There seems to be a larger percentage of well-known theatre actors in this cast than last years, which may enhance the performance quality from what it was in The Sound of Music Live!
One of the biggest parts of the story of Peter Pan, that is certainly a large concern for the creators, is the children’s interaction with Native Americans in Neverland.  Looking back on the original production and even the Disney film, these scenes have not been handled with particular grace and come off as incredibly offensive. Alanna Saunders, a woman of Cherokee descent, will portray the Native American Princess character Tiger Lily after much protest of the potential casting of Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).  Other than this casting announcement, there is not a lot of clarity as to the actors who will be portraying the other Native American characters in the musical.  Hopefully these scenes will be handled delicately considering the incredible backlash that may appear if it comes across in an offensive way.
Following the dispassionate response of many of The Sound of Music Live! viewers, one can only hope that the producers of these live broadcastings have learned what went wrong last year and will learn from those mistakes. Certainly they have seen what went right and will be able to build upon the strengths to quell the weaknesses of last year.  All in all, NBC is striving to bring these classic musicals to a broader audience that may not be able to afford a ticket to see a show in a traditional theater.  It is an impressive feat to put a production on live in any venue, and the accomplishments of these performances should be appreciated.  This is a Peter Pan for a new generation, which may spark some child’s dream to be a part of the theatre world; or it may only increase their desire to “never grow up,” which is a good thing too!
For more information and videos, see Playbill.com or NBC.com.

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