NBC’s “Pan” surprisingly soars
Having a nostalgic hunger for live musical telecasts, I wondered how the “near dead” genre would get back on track. Well, last year’s “Sound of Music” was the kick starter to it and despite having not seen it, I do give credit for again taking a lost tradition and giving it new legs. Or else, I would have not seen one of the most amazing live televised events. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t hype it too much. After all, some of us thought the new “Peter Pan Live” was going to be a flop. But to my surprise, this not only does the original musical right but also even the source material to a new generation. Being someone who grew up on the Disney version and Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” (which is one of my favorite films), I always liked the idea of a kid that never grew up and lived in a world where pirates where the adults and kids were trying to maintain their young selves. Now having not seen the original J.M. Barrie production and only the 1960 musical recording with Mary Martin in the title role, its going to be hard trying to compare and contrast among sources. But seeing its developed from the 1954 Broadway play and some portions of the J.M. Barrie play, its an interesting cross that doesn’t feel insulting. It shows research was done well.
Allison Williams is surprisingly well cast as Peter Pan respecting the charm of the character but also an added tragedy. The fact that the world around him is growing up and yet refuses to grow with it. I can’t reveal why as it would spoil but it very much follows a unique reason for the character’s eternal youth that I never thought before. Its lost childhood that was never experienced and only wishes to remain in that form because of how grand it feels. I know its strange to have a woman play Peter Pan but I see why. Picturing a male lead would be hard to carry much charisma and whimsy for such a notable character.
The biggest hype of the evening I’m sure everyone was waiting to toss vegetables at is Captain Hook being played by Christopher Walken. This could have gone wrong but I best remind you how much of a song and dance man Walken is. He can carry a tune and his footwork is phenomenal. While he doesn’t go over the top, the role is a surprisingly good fit. Its a more laid back take that is not cartoony giving a fresh new take on the character. Its more interrogating and serious which brings more comedy when he tries to take something so absurd like poisoning Pan with a cake while making it diabolical. If I did have a nitpick his performance a bit, it does get too relaxed at times for even when he has to react to a man in a crocodile suit. The timing of his reaction is funny but not big enough to be hilarious. When the croc was around, Hook would be in a fit. Here, he just slides away like its a spider in a window.
The updates to the show are good too; production wise and story. There’s a lot more time spent between Pan and Wendy (Kelli O’Hara) to get an idea of their relationship as Wendy wants to be a more motherly figure while Pan keeps reminding his Lost Boys to always be a kid. It makes for some great comedy while also getting some drama while Wendy finally understands why Pan never wishes to grow up. It becomes more heartbreaking than a simple shrug in the original. I also think the Lost Boys depicted as English school children is clever rather than lost orphans on an island. But the biggest update I think everyone can agree is the Natives. In the past, they were seen more as the comic relief and I don’t think it was the right aspect. I know it was of the time but it just got too campy at times and I never found them that funny. In the “Live” production, they are given a better direction that is easy to stomach with. Though, did they have to give them a skimpy grass skirt? Even for a TV-G production its questionable.
Past the story changes, there are some additional notes to the melody that I think help it out. “Ugg a Wugg” I don’t think will be missed much as it gets a decent re-write and Captain Hook has one or two extra tunes that add on to the character’s hate for Pan that get really catchy. The biggest addition is a number called “When I Went Home” that was originally cut from the 1954 production. Perhaps its reinstatement to this version is more suitable here as the past was more campy and light. This number in general that talks about a past memory Peter has fits what this version is doing but adding character depth while not too much to the point its too sad. The Pan here is more than just smiles and games. Its a kid that doesn’t wish to be something he doesn’t want. Its better reflected here.
“Peter Pan Live” is not just an upgrade but a welcome production that I’m sure will be talked about for a while. While I can’t say its 100% perfect as it does have some wires hanging about here and there while some studio lights in certain shots but that’s part of the fun of a live production. If it were a movie, that would be a different case. Your more amazed with how they have a small blooper like that and just go with it. Your expecting them to break character but yet impressed to see how they role with it and do their part. That is good acting to me. A perfect stocking stuffer I declare for this musical gem.
Posted on December 5, 2014, in In Theaters (Sort of) and tagged Christopher Walken Allison Williams, J. M. barrie, Live, Lost Boys, Musical, NBC, neverland, Peter Pan, Peter Pan Live!, Play, Telecast. Stage. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.