NBC’s Live Performance of Peter Pan

I am a huge Peter Pan fan. About a year ago, I saw Cathy Rigby in her signature role of Peter, on her farewell tour. I loved it. It was beautiful, well-acted and clearly Rigby has turned into Peter Pan over the years. I am also a huge fan of things I can watch with my whole family on television and not be bombarded with constant sex talk, violence, and political references, so imagine my excitement when I found out that NBC was doing another live musical for the holiday season. We watched last year’s Sound of Music, and once Carrie Underwood got past her first few nervous minutes, it was pretty good. Peter turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag for me.

It followed the story very well. Mrs. Darling, played by Kelli O’Hara, was perfect. Her voice was beautiful and she was in possession of the presence that only Broadway performers have. Minnie Driver did a good job as the narrator and grown-up Wendy. I feel like I’m expected to know who Allison Williams, aka Peter is, but I have no clue. She did a good job, and from certain angles, she pulled off being a boy. Her beautiful voice was all girl, even though she seemed to be cutting off soaring high notes to keep from sounding too much like a girl. It didn’t work and next time I suggest she just go ahead and go for it. She was very good with the Pan postures, but that tunic could have been a little longer. Even though she has about zero body fat, the girl thighs and rear were visible. That’s not her fault, the costumer should have noticed.

In fact, most of my issues with the show had nothing to do with the actors, rather, little details like the tunic length and some of the casting drove me to distraction. So let’s address the casting. Smee is supposed to be an old guy. He was not, but he was my favorite. Christian Borle was one of the highlights for me. He was funny, and played the part of Smee very well, he was just about twenty-five years too young. Christopher Walken. What to say about Christopher Walken. At first, I thought he was looking down and slightly to his left with a glassy eyed stare to make Hook appear disconnected and scary. As the show went on however, I realized that he was looking at a teleprompter, because he never stopped doing it. Ok, he stopped once in a while, but overall, he never stopped doing it. It was really in the wrong place. The whole time. He’s having trouble with voice strength. It happens, and again, wrong age. He was a bit to old for the part of Hook, ten years ago he would have been perfect. Hook is a full grown adult, but he’s not a grandpa, that should be Smee. See where I’m going here? Casting people, have you READ Peter Pan? Seen the movie? Seen the Broadway show? I really think they did CW a disservice. In their quest for a big name, they made the wrong choice.

The Lost Boys. This casting criticism gets an entire paragraph of it’s own, and it goes back to, “Hey casting people, have you ANY familiarity with Peter Pan?” The Lost Boys are supposed to be boys. Little boys, saaaay ten and under. These guys were the Lost Men. I have not seen more hugely muscular calves, leg hair, ropey, muscled arms, and five o’clock shadow in one place maybe ever. They were huge. When they were singing about getting a mother, my daughter said, “Mother, they have wives.” It took two pirates to kidnap each Lost Boy. Did I say they were huge? The only appropriately aged and sized “Lost Boys” were John and Michael Darling. I’m completely serious here. It was just really bad casting. Really bad.

All of this being said, I enjoyed a nice night of entertainment with my family. We had snacks together, laughed in a good way at the pirates. Pirates are always my favorite and if dancing pirates are wrong, I don’t wanna be right. The scene with Peter and Wendy in the boat reminded me of The Little Mermaid, go on and kiss theee girl, but I liked it. It was really pretty. The little miniature, fog laced London reminded me of the Peter Pan ride at Disney World, which worked for me, and the Lost Boys hide out was every little kid’s dream fantasy fort. The sets were beautiful, most of the costuming was good, and it was enjoyable overall.

Suggestions to NBC for next year. Mainly, three words. New. Casting. Director. For a tv event like this, you don’t need to drag in people everybody knows, or are supposed to know to get an audience. You need to hire Broadway caliber actors to populate a Broadway caliber show. And for pete’s sake, read the original material before you make even those choices. There are a lot of people out here in America who are familiar with what these stories are supposed to be, and we WILL notice when you get it wrong, and it WILL color our perception of what you are trying to do.

My other suggestion is to make another one. PLEASE. We are starving for stuff like this out here. We get enough exposure to inappropriate sex, graphic violence and cruelty on the news. It’s not entertainment. This actually WAS entertainment and we want more of it.

Have a great day everybody and be kind. 🙂

2 thoughts on “NBC’s Live Performance of Peter Pan

  1. Unless you watch the HBO show “Girls”, you have no reason to know Allison Williams, except maybe that she’s NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ daughter.

    I’m awarding you a “Good Taste Medal”, for being a non-professional critic but still realizing that this show was indeed worse than last year’s Sound of Music. There was no rational reason to not have Christian Borle play Hook. He’s got a TONY for playing Hook in a different version of the play, for pity’s sake! The same actors ALWAYS play the stern Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. What’s the point of Dad turning into a Sons of Anarchy version of Smee? Maybe Walken demanded double pay.

    I agree with all the points you made in this review.


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