by Julian Spivey
NBC began a new tradition last year with the poorly reviewed and received “The Sound of Music” live musical, which managed to net the network massive ratings. Despite the poor quality of the show, I’m going on the many reviews as I didn’t see it, the idea of bringing live theater into homes of people everywhere is terrific.
This year the network decided to put on a live musical version of “Peter Pan” and the version seemed to go off splendidly, despite many on social media making up their minds that they were going to hate it and “hate watch” it before it even aired.
As an adult I honestly didn’t have much interest in “Peter Pan Live.” I honestly don’t have too many memories of the story as a child either, even though my first introduction to it was through recorded versions of the Mary Martin performance, which this is sort of a tribute to. It wasn’t until I found out that unique and veteran actor Christopher Walken would be playing Captain Hook that my interest was really piqued. I didn’t want to miss the chance to see Walken sing and dance; which isn’t that unusual and is something he, in fact, loves to do … I just had yet to see it.
NBC’s version of “Peter Pan” cast Allison Williams of “Girls” fame and the daughter of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, which set many uninformed people into a tizzy over the fact that a woman would be portraying a boy’s role. These people were unaware that the role has been played by women almost as long as it’s been around.
Williams’ portrayal as the boy legend was done with much gusto and she really carried the three-hour performance that certainly would’ve been in trouble without a talented lead. I think that’s probably where NBC went wrong last year with “The Sound of Music” in casting a singer with no acting experience in Carrie Underwood into the lead role. Williams was particularly fascinating to watch during all of Peter Pan’s flying scenes, doing twirls and flips in mid-air.
The people behind the scenes did an excellent job with the special effects making all of the flying scenes look life-like (if you can suspend your disbelief because of the wires), Tinker Bell’s graphics and especially the crocodile that chases Captain Hook throughout the musical. There wasn’t a single issue all performance long, which is certainly not an easy task on live television.
The thing that drew me into this production – Walken’s appearance – was probably the thing I enjoyed the most about “Peter Pan Live.” It was a blast to see him sing and dance and just bring his Walken uniqueness to the role of Captain Hook. Some might think it awkward because you can tell it’s just Walken in pirate makeup – that is it’s arguable that he doesn’t really become Captain Hook as you’re always aware it’s Chris Walken, but that’s not something that bothered me one bit. It might have made it all the more entertaining.
The only complaint I have with “Peter Pan Live” was its three-hour length that at times certainly made the performance drag, especially through the middle section of the play. I think the network could have shrunk the performance down a bit or even shown it with limited commercial interruption (but the network was making a killing off of advertisers for this event).
All in all, NBC’s production of “Peter Pan Live” was far more enjoyable than I ever imagined it could have been with entertaining performances from both leads. The fact that it went off without a hitch and should clean up in Nielsen ratings should make this a big win for NBC.