Tonight is the night, my fellow theater lovers! We’re about to “set sail” on the ship known as NBC, into the world of awkward stunt casting and other bizarre changes known as Peter Pan LIVE. Ever since the “unique” announcement of Alison Williams playing The Boy Who Never Grew Up, this television production has been considered by many to be a failure to launch situation. Could it turn out to be a masterpiece? Or will all our worst nightmares come true? Here are some thoughts prior to tonight’s big event:
Many of us know I am not team Alison Williams by any means. Even hearing the small bits of her singing the signature pieces of the musical, I’m still not buying her as Peter. But you know what bothers me even more than that decision? Christian Borle playing Smee AND Mr. Darling.
To some, who have never watched countless versions of Pan, many will not know that usually the same actor that plays Mr. Darling also plays Captain Hook. This is to make the connection to the audience that both characters are authoritative figures, that rule over our protagonists (Wendy, John and Michael) with an iron fist, and go along with the mythology that adults equal pirates, vice versa. Now with this casting choice, not only is Borle not playing Hook (a role he did ever so well in Peter and the Starcatcher) but he’s playing the most un-menacing character of all: Mr. Smee, a.k.a the comic relief. So unless they make some new change in Mr. Smee, I don’t see what is the point of having Borle play both characters if you can’t make that connection.
Otherwise, the casting is decent. We have a newcomer as Tiger Lilly (Alanna Saunders), Minnie Driver as Grown Up Wendy Darling/Narrator, and Kelli O’Hara as Mrs. Darling. Sure, O’Hara should have been cast as Peter, but at least she’s getting some sort of recognition. (#IamnotbitterIswear)
A Certain Song
If you’ve seen this musical version of Peter Pan before, you might know of one specific song that is considered to be pretty tasteless by the majority of the world. “Ugg a Wugg” the song sung by Tiger Lilly and Peter, is yet another example of the issues of theater’s past, when it comes to stereotypes and race. Thankfully, the song has been given a much needed rewrite, including the title, now called “True Blood Brothers.” Sonny Skyhawk (CEO of the AIFT) and David Chase (Musical Director) worked together to make the song less awkward in its descriptions of American Indian culture, and I am ridiculously excited to see the results.
One thing that will keep people on the edge of their seats, much like last year’s Sound of Music broadcast, is the fact that this is completely 100 percent live. There will most likely be mistakes, but the question will be if we the audience can catch them. Maybe it’s the bit of schadenfreude in my heart, but secretly I’m the most excited to see if Ms. Williams and crew can keep up with the pace.
Sadly, I don’t think Carrie Underwood did that great a job last year with her role as Maria, but at least Broadway vets like Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti got their much deserved moment in the spotlight, which I hope is the case this time around for Pan. Maybe people will get more interested in Kelli O’Hara or Taylor Louderman, and their star and respect levels, will rise.
In short, I don’t have too many high hopes for tonight’s broadcast. Sure, it could surprise me and be fantastic, but unless somehow they cast Kelli as Peter last minute, my dreams are at this point crushed. Are you excited for tonight’s broadcast? If you’re watching it, make sure to catch Melissa’s review afterwards!
Kayla’s Thoughts: I’m apprehensive about the quality of this Peter Pan production. I have loved this musical since before I can remember, especially since it was the first musical I ever saw.
I, like Dalin, am really disappointed about the star power used to make this show go. Sure Christopher Walken is a great actor and phenomenal dancer, but if the part isn’t big enough, you don’t add to the part, you find a new part. With the exception of Cabaret’s “Maybe This Time,” most songs added to musicals are crap. Seriously. Who even listens to the song that was added to the Les Mis movie? I certainly didn’t bother learning the words. Allison Williams COULD be great. She’s excited to play this part, so good for her! However, there are so many women on Broadway who would rock this role. It shouldn’t have gone to her.
The reason I’m particularly apprehensive is because I think from the clips and advertisements I’ve seen, the direction is far too cheesy, and I fear the show will lose the sweetness it’s always had.
I’m very excited to get to hear all the songs I love, and hear some wonderful people belt their hearts out. I’m excited for a new generation of kids to love this musical as much as I do. I’m also excited for snarky tweets and facebook statuses. Those were my favorite part of Sound of Music last year!
Peter Pan LIVE starts tonight at 8/7c at NBC
-Written by Dalin Rowell and Kayla Farber