I’m Flying!

Peter Pan Live

Last night, Mary, Mom and I headed to my Aunt Mary’s to settle in and watch Peter Pan Live! with Bobby and Mary. Musicals have always been a big part of any family viewing time for us. (I’ve mentioned before that my initial love for the genre came from a bedtime reprieve to see the end of West Side Story,) and Peter Pan is special because Peter Pan just is special, especially to kids who love musicals.

Mary and I joke about my cousins Jake, Tommy and Bobby being the little brothers that we never had but being way better because they didn’t live with us. Anyway, those boys loved Peter Pan. Jake was Captain Hook for Halloween like seventeen times. But enough about those boys.

Peter Pan Live seemed to learn every possible good lesson from The Sound of Music Live, which was nice, because I think it would have hurt my heart to see it butchered that way. Peter Pan is far from a perfect musical, but it’s a charming one and a much better choice for this kind of event than the more serious Sound of Music.

Let’s talk about the man of the hour.

Allison Williams really delivered as Peter. It’s hard to compete with Mary Martin in people’s minds and hearts, especially the people that love Peter Pan, but Williams did a credible job. She was maybe a little too feminine, but she was clearly just having so much fun with Peter, when she started “I’m Flying” and “I won’t Grow Up” her face was alive with glee. It would have been easy for NBC to buck tradition and give this part to a dude. (I’m sure Chris Colfer would have been delighted in fact…) But I’m glad that they didn’t. I’m glad that in one of the weirdest but most wonderful musical theatre traditions, the Boy Who’ll Never Grow Up was in fact played by a grown woman.

The only person on that stage (soundstage? Where do they shoot these things anyway?) who was having more fun than Allison Williams was Christian Borle. My god, the man was giddy, and a while it was kind of a waste to make him Smee, he was great, and I really, really liked his take on Mr. Darling.  Also, his arms were distractingly large. When did THAT happen? He didn’t have those during Smash did he? Now I have to watch Smash again to check.

Speaking of the Darlings, Taylor Louderman did a credible job with Wendy, but kind of primed the argument of the difficulties of theater actors doing television, because, those “BIG EXPRESSIONS” you’re trained for when doing a musical on stage make you look insane with a camera on your face. But John and Michael were adorable. Especially Michael, who I wanted to you know, child snatch. (A crime apparently known as “kidnapping” in some circles.) And Kelli O’Hara was, no surprise, completely flawless (the Audra MacDonald Award for perfection in an NBC musical extravaganza goes to her)

All 3 ensembles, pirates, Newsies, um, I mean Lost Boys and Indians were great, the choreography was fabulous. Neverland was fantastically designed.

Now, into the Walken of it all…I um, didn’t get it. Here’s the thing. I get that he’s Christopher Walken, we were going to get a Christopher Walken performance, but he was so tonally out of sync with the rest of the production that I couldn’t buy it. Everyone else was in this earnestly and sincerely and the material itself is a little cheesy and campy, so it comes off that way, but he was giving a what looked to me like a self aware camp performance which is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING. But whatever. I also just love watching this man dance, and always have.

Minnie Driver’s final cameo was lovely as was her costume.

Also, I know I live in one of the weirdest households in the country because we were all raving about “the wigs! The wigs were FANTASTIC!” We were also thrilled you could see the wires. In the stage direction for Angels In America Tony Kushner insists that you see the wires when The Angel descends upon Prior Walter’s bedroom, because theatrical magic is different than movie magic and seeing the strings is a part of that.

So next year is The Music Man, apparently? This is confirmed, or whatever? I want to see Christian Borle as Harold Hill but I know that they’ll need a name, (NPH, PLEASE!!!!) and he’ll also make an excellent Marcellus. As for Marian, as long as it’s someone who can sing soprano I’ll be happy. Someone online mentioned Laura Osnes and while I would love to see that, it’s highly unlikely unless she gets some major mainstream exposure in the next year.

I’m glad that this is a thing, these live musicals. I’m glad that people are watching them. I’m glad that this one was good. Maybe the next will be great.

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3 thoughts on “I’m Flying!

  1. Well, I am glad you enjoyed it. I thought it was awful and weird in a hundred ways, but I LOVE stuff that’s “so bad it’s good”, so I had fun too. But I’m not going to waste time watching it again.

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    • I don’t think this reaches a “so bad it’s good” level, it’s not bad enough. I’m not saying I thought it was something truly amazing either, but I do think it was a good effort, a solid B. Also, I’m a sucker for nostalgia and good feelings.

      A lot of people put a lot of hard work and love into this project and I think that showed. For a family musical, that’s what counts in a big.

      Definitely not going to watch it again. It’s not worth that.

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      • Yes, I could tell they had money to spend, and took time to rehearse, and hired talented people. The problems were all matters of bad taste and poor direction. For example, there’s an important psychological dynamic employed by using the same actor to play stern Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. But here it’s lost because Walken didn’t want to do it, so Mr. Darling became…Smee??!! Another core element is performing all the magic using practical effects on stage. Having a CGI Tinkerbelle was a cheat that conflicted with the choice to use wire harnesses that remained visible. Make up your minds! The sets looked like a board game, or leftovers from “HR Pufnstuf”. The attempt to substitute Pacific Islander stereotypes for the previous Native American stereotypes doesn’t work. Tiger Lilly’s tribe is next to naked, but the Lost Boys seem to have found a trunk full of English prep school uniforms, even though they were “lost” from their cribs (carriages). Christopher Walken playing an old lady who looks like Christopher Walken? I could go on and on. But I try not to deny anyone enjoyment in something for whatever reason they can find. Everyone is free to like what they like.

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