Okay, NBC, new rule: if you're going to keep doing these live musical events (and I sincerely hope that you do), you need to start casting lead actors who work.
Like last year's Sound of Music Live, Peter Pan Live was a very promising and occasionally entertaining production hampered by the fact that its stars were out of place and/or out of their depth. And that's a shame, because Peter Pan has a proud television tradition to stand on. I have good memories of watching reruns of the old Mary Martin broadcast, and the 1990s revival with Cathy Rigby has long been a home video staple. Watching this production reminded me how good the score really is, alternating between joyously fun numbers like "I'm Flying" and "I Won't Grow Up" and haunting, reflective pieces like "Tender Shepherd"--a fitting juxtaposition for a story that's all about the innocence of childhood faced with the inevitability of growing older.
Such a pity, then, that Allison Williams and Christopher Walken fell short on Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Though Williams sang well, and certainly displayed more personality than Carrie Underwood (who was out-acted by the sets, her costumes, and occasionally her guitar), she delivered only a fraction of the energy, joy, and arrogant bravado of the boy who never grew up. Peter Pan is a little rougish, a little thoughtless, and a little naive--which is why the on-the-cusp-of-womanhood Wendy finds him so fascinating--but Williams seemed too self-aware and, well, mature in the part. As for Walken...he pretty much did what everybody pays him to do nowadays, which is show up and be Christopher Walken. Seldom has he done it with so little enthusiasm, however, only occasionally giving Hook a bit of villainous snarl and stumbling over his lines with an indifference that suggested he couldn't even be bothered to learn them.
The rest of the cast was admirable enough--Taylor Louderman made for a sweet, oh-so-British Wendy, and Kelli O'Hara was elegant in voice and figure as Mrs. Darling. Christian Borle proved indispensable once again, doing double duty as Mr. Darling and Smee. (Tradition dictates Hook doubles for Mr. Darling, but Walken would have been even less convincing as the blustering Edwardian patriarch.) And if the Lost Boys didn't look much younger than the pirates they tangled with--I swear one of them had a hint of five o'clock shadow--they leaped about the beautiful Neverland set with infectious glee.
Updates to the material were inevitable, with mixed results. We all knew Tiger Lily and her tribe of racial stereotypes would never fly today (no pun intended), and turning them into a multi-ethnic troupe of generic primitives was a reasonable adjustment. Did we really need to beg the children to save Tinkerbell via hashtag, though?
If Peter Pan didn't fall flat on its face, it didn't really soar either. Hopefully the kinks in this whole concept get hammered out before The Music Man hits the small screen. Otherwise, there will be (Musical) Hell to pay.
Located on a small expansion shelf about midway between the Third and Fourth Circles, Musical Hell is presided over by Diva, a minor demon charged with passing judgement on the worst musicals ever committed to film. (She still hasn't figured out if this is their punishment or hers.) Take a seat on the bench and have your earplugs ready, because court is now in session.
New videos posted on the first Monday of the month. Other viewpoints, news, and general ramblings posted when they crop up.