Musical Review: ‘Peter Pan Live!’

Most people are familiar with the story of Peter Pan, whether from watching the animated Disney film or reading the original tale by J. M. Barrie. There’s no question that the story of Peter Pan has remained as timeless as Pan himself and continues to be a favorite among children and grown-ups alike. “Peter Pan” was chosen as this year’s live televised musical broadcast by NBC.

“Peter Pan Live!” aired Dec. 4 on NBC, a follow-up to their highly successful “Sound of Music Live!” in Dec. 2013.

Allison Williams gave a memorable performance in the title role. Her voice was well suited for the part, and her boyish mannerisms and British accident were convincing. Christopher Walken, as Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook, was less convincing in his role, but his performance overall did not take away from the show. Perhaps the strangest casting choice was the very much grown-up actors playing Wendy and the Lost Boys.

The musical “Peter Pan” originally debuted on NBC in 1955 starring Mary Martin, for whom the part of Peter Pan was especially written. For the most part, “Peter Pan Live!” stayed true to the original.

Highlights from the live performance were group numbers “I Won’t Grow Up,” sung by Peter and the Lost Boys, and “Blood Brothers,” in which the Lost Boys and the Indians join forces. The choreography was one of the most impressive aspects of the show, whether it was Pan flying through the air or Hook’s dancing pirate crew.

“Peter Pan Live!” included several new songs as well, such as “A Wonderful World Without Peter,” a duet by Pan and Hook, and “Only Pretend,” sung by Wendy. For viewers already familiar with the musical, these songs seemed awkward and out of place.

Like its predecessor “The Sound of Music Live!,” “Peter Pan Live!” lacked the onstage energy accustomed to live performances. The first half hour in the Darling children’s nursery felt static, despite Williams enthusiastically flying about the room. Although the actors do and say all the right things, the chemistry to make it convincing just wasn’t there. The vibrant, over-the-top sets for the pirate ship and Neverland at times made viewers feel like they were watching an amateur production.

The one thing “Peter Pan Live!” lacks to make it appealing to all generations, particularly young viewers, is the ironic absence of children. Although the premise of the show is that it’s set in a land where kids won’t grow up, John and Michael are notably the only characters in the show played by actual children. While the casting of older actors as Lost Boys enabled them to carry out more difficult dance numbers, it also robbed young viewers of the chance to relate to the characters on stage.

For those who missed “Peter Pan Live!” the entire production is already available on NBC’s website and will be released on DVD Dec. 16.

Mary Kate Browning is a senior applied communications major and digital editor for Cedars. She loves coffee, goats and wearing her Batman backpack around campus.

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