“Peter Pan Live” Falls Short

As a follow up to NBC’s The Sound of Music Live! which was broadcasted on Dec. 5 of last year, the network released a much anticipated Peter Pan Live! production on Thursday night.

Playing the title role was 26-year-old Allison Williams, an actress who is more commonly known for playing Marnie Michaels in HBO’s Girls. Thanks to an old English law which forbid those who were less than 14 years of age to work past 9 pm, Pan was often played by a female. Staying true to the play’s roots, director Rob Ashford, along with producer Donna Suchan Smeland, decided to cast the Yale graduate for the lead. Williams now joins the likes of Cathy Rigby, Mary Martin, and Sandy Duncan, all of whom played Peter Pan.

Much like her predecessors, Williams provided quite the singing voice and performed with a very believable British accent.

Despite this performance, the play’s production was surrounded by nasty comments on social media sites. The tweets of disappointment began about 15 minutes into the production, when Peter and Wendy go to find the house maid who is in a small closet allegedly sleeping. Comedian Zach Braff even got in on the action as he tweeted, “The top hat kid killed the maid.”

It became rather obvious throughout the production that there were four main issues within the play. They can be broken down as follows:

1) Tinkerbell.

Tinkerbell is one of the most beloved characters in Peter Pan thanks to Walt Disney. When Disney produced his cartoon version of the play in 1953, Tinkerbell was transformed into a cute, petite fairy that is well-liked. Tinkerbell can be seen before every Disney film as she touches the tip of Cinderella’s castle with her fairy wand, an item which she actually does not possess.

In this play, Tinkerbell first appears in the children’s nursery. As she frantically searches to find Peter’s shadow, I could not help but notice her strange resemblance to a yellow mosquitom and the music which accompanied her was very unpleasing. Actress Anna Kendrick tweeted, “Tinkerbell sounds just like the iPhone alarm and these kids are still asleep? I don’t buy it. #PeterPanLive,” while other tweets compared her to a bioluminescent shrimp (the similarities are uncanny).

2) Chrisitan Borle

Borle was cast as both Mr. Darling and Smee, however, in most productions of Peter Pan, the actor playing Mr. Darling also plays Captain Hook. For example, P.J. Hogan’s 2003 Peter Pan featured Jason Isaacs as Mr. Darling and Hook. This tradition dates back to J.M. Barrie’s original production, when Gerald du Maurier, who was already playing Mr. Darling, convinced Barrie to let him play Hook as well.

Why wouldn’t NBC want Borle as Captain Hook? He had already won a Tony for the role in the play’s prequel, Peter and the Starcatcher, in 2012. Obviously the answer is because Christopher Walken was cast as Hook, but was he really that great? Maybe NBC thought the recognition of a well-known name would entice a larger audience and receive good ratings. He has been in the industry three times longer than I have even been alive and yet, I could not get past the awkwardness he brought to the stage. Saturday Night Live was quick to jump on the casting decision this past weekend. James Franco beautifully captured how idiotic Walken’s Captain Hook was, and I thoroughly enjoyed Franco’s mockery much more than Walken’s actual performance. Side note: Was anyone else as uncomfortable hearing Walken “sing?”

3) Neverland

Neverland is supposed to be a place where time stops, and it certainly looked like this particular version of Neverland stopped in a 1970’s psychedelic music video. Either that or Miley Cyrus’s birthday party—you be the judge. The first scene of Neverland features neon colors with oddly-shaped trees and a yellow ground. Television critic Ryan McGee tweeted, “When will The Lorax be appearing to speak for the trees?” and Alex Goldschmidt, Taylor Swift’s right hand man, tweeted, “If you want to know what a gay wedding is like, just watch every Neverland scene in #PeterPanLive.” Safe to say, Neverland was unique.

4) The Crocodile

What is supposed to be Captain Hook’s greatest fear turned out to be an oversized blue and purple lizard. The only thing to fear when it came to the crocodile was the thought of Walken appearing in the scene. The crocodile captured much attention from not only social media, but news outlets as well. Countless articles are being written on the man behind the crocodile, assistant choreographer Charlie Williams.

While there were a few questionable decisions, the overall production was not awful.

On a positive note, the flying scenes, while rather tricky to set up, were remarkable; the cast and crew made it seem flawless. Taylor Louderman as Wendy and Kelli O’Hara as Mrs. Darling gave solid performances and belted out strong notes. One of the better performed scenes of the entire production was the finale, where Peter Pan returns to find Wendy is a mother herself. Williams’ emotion and dismay at the site of change is an emotional performance that secures her spot in a Broadway play.

All in all, if you missed the production, make sure to thank your brain for preserving a lovely Peter Pan memory.

IMAGE TAKEN from hollywoodreporter.com