I had been looking forward to watching Peter Pan Live! since it was announced (despite the train wreck that was The Sound of Music Live last year) because J.M. Barrie’s classic tale is one of my absolute favorites. Many people don’t realize it, but Peter Pan was actually a play first performed in 1904 (although it’s the 1954 version that most people are familiar with) before it was novelized in 1911 as Peter and Wendy. I’ve loved almost every iteration I’ve seen and read so I couldn’t resist clearing my schedule to absorb more Peter Pan lore in Allison Williams’ version, even if I was very wary of how the end result would turn out.
Since I’m always drawn to things by aesthetics, the first thing I was to discuss is the fashion in the NBC production and how it is SO perfect. I LOVE Peter Pan’s layered ensemble which is paired with forest green faux leather crop leggings. The black mesh undershirt is reminiscent of a net that pirates while they’re out at sea. The lace up kelly green tunic which was belted at the hips with a deep brown worn looking leather perfectly complemented it and I love how Peter was accessorized with matching brown leather wristbands. (One pet peeve which has nothing do with the actual fashion but did involve shoes – Peter jumps on Wendy’s bed while donning his footwear which would totally make me FREAK OUT.) Hook’s red velvet bell sleeve and black lace trimmed coat with gold detailing is beautiful but his pants were belted a little too high for my taste. However, his black blouse and fold over boots were spot on. I also enjoyed Wendy’s white nightgown which had a blue pattern and was belted with a blue ribbon, even though I did not enjoy Wendy herself. All of the supporting characters were perfectly dressed with the exception of the Lost Boys who looked more like they were on their way to a prep school (SO MANY CRESTED BLAZERS AND STRIPES).
Next up, the performances. Allison Williams totally killed it as Peter Pan. I loved her playful interpretation of the character which was magnified by her facial expressions, boyish mannerisms, and overall charm. On the other hand, Wendy (played by Taylor Louderman), annoyed me to no end. She was too anxious and bug eyed and I think they should’ve either cast a younger actress or done her makeup differently because her acting and look made her seem like a 30 year old who stopped maturing at 13. There are almost no words for Christopher Walken as Captain Hook who I’m pretty sure was hired as a wildcard to keep things interesting. I think his tango and swordfight with Peter were some of the most gloriously awful moments in the whole production. Walken clearly did not memorize his lines and was being fed lines throughout the play (maybe from a teleprompter? He kept looking down as though he were reading). His lack of effort in acting out the character made him one of the silliest and most fun actors to watch. Traditionally, the actor who plays Mr. Darling usually plays Captain Hook as well, but I Walken could not handle another part so instead Mr. Darling was played by Christian Borle who also played Mr. Smee. He did a wonderful job in both roles, no doubt due to his previous experience in theater (he even won a Tony for playing Black Stache in the off-Broadway production of Peter and the Starcatcher!). Tiger Lily was played by Alanna Saunders (who is actually of Cherokee descent) and she did a fine job but her tribe looked like tan versions of the creatures from James Cameron’s Avatar. Kelli O’Hara played Mrs. Darling and her signing voice is so incredible. Minnie Driver was an excellent older Wendy who narrated throughout the play. I truly wish her daughter in the last scene had played Wendy instead of Louderman though. She had much ,ore energy and I imagine she would’ve done a much better job acting out the part. Oh, and without question, the best casting in the production was the Darlings’ dog, Nana.
Lastly, the set design, music, Tinker Bell and Tick-Tock! The Darling’s house is GORGEOUS. It looks exactly like a live action recreation of Disney version. The clock in the distance, the windowsill, and the beds were crafted fantastically. I would love to have the opportunity to stand in there for just a few minutes! The set of Neverland was some kind of strange mash up of Oz meets Wonderland meets Dr. Seuss. It was very colorful and imaginative, although it didn’t really fit the feel of the play, but the Jolly Roger was like a dream pirate ship. The music was so much fun to sing and hum along to and the songs were all performed very well, especially ‘Never Grow Up.’ Allison Williams’ vocals are so fitting for Peter Pan. I’m saddened that NBC chose to use a CGI version of Tinker Bell instead of the traditional blinking flashlight, but I understand their desire to experiment in a way that hasn’t been done before. Speaking of experiments, one that had gone awry is the psychedelic version of Tick-Tock the crocodile. I’m not sure why he’s tie dyed shades of blue and purple and I don’t think I’m even interested in finding out the answer.
Overall, I enjoyed the production as it was very loyal to the original stage versions despite the Shazam ads and the hashtag to #SaveTinkerBell (although Allison Williams TOTALLY sold the bit where she urged us all to CLAP!). (And for people complaining about the wires, you know it was a live production and people can’t actually fly [as far as we know], right?) Peter Pan Live! has a strong introduction but I don’t believe I would be eager to re-watch some scenes from the second half of the show. One of the best things to come out of Peter Pan Live! is a slew of new articles outlining interesting facts and timelines about Peter, hilarious tweets about the performace, and some Hook gifs/memes which I’ve took the liberty of inserting into my post.
-Allison Williams As Peter Pan
-Christopher Walken’s Tango
-“Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning.”
-Christopher Walken’s Random Gutteral Cooing During Commercial Breaks
-Captain Hook & Peter Pan’s Lackluster Sword Fight
-Peter Pan Screaming That He’s An Avenger
-Cookie the Pirate
-ALL THE COSTUMES
-ALL THE MUSIC
19 Things You May Not Know About Peter Pan The Musical – via Mental Floss
Peter Pan Syndrome: A Timeline of All Things Neverland – via Vulture
Why Is Peter Pan Usually Played By A Woman – via Slate
Did you watch / were you able to endure Peter Pan Live? What did you think? NBC has already announced that they’ll be continuing the tradition and putting on The Music Man Live in 2015! FOX is also jumping aboard the live production train and has announced Grease for 2015!