Friday, January 23, 2015

Peter Pan Live! (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A live telecast of the beloved J. M. Barrie story.
Directed by Rob Ashford and Glenn Weiss. Starring Allison Williams, Christopher Walken, Taylor Louderman, and Christian Borle.

I grew up on the Mary Martin version of this, and like most show productions, there are things I like more than that version and things I like less. Let's start with the positive: the group dance scenes in this are great. These are some of the most fun choreographed numbers I've seen in recent years, really solidifying the story's blend of both energetic adventure and goofy fantasy. Broadway vets Christian Borle, Kelli O'Hara, and Taylor Louderman are also all delightful. The changes to the score are good choices -- "Oh My Mysterious Lady" and Liza's ballet were not at all missed, and most of the new songs were great fun.

The main issue with this production, however, is the casting of the leads. Allison Williams is all right as Peter Pan, but she constantly sounds out of breath in her songs, and not for a second could I imagine her as anything other than an adult woman. There's a reason Mary Martin won an Oscar for her portrayal of Peter -- she managed to tap into the cadence and body language of a young boy in a way Williams never gets. This is not a particularly easy role to play, and I understand that, but I was not terribly impressed with the final decision.

But while Williams was simply unmemorable, Christopher Walken is a huge disappointment. Hook has some of the most entertaining lines and songs and the role does demand a certain amount of camp to play it -- at the very least a deliciously intimidating quality. Walken *can* have both of these, but here he just looks SO uncomfortable, stiffly shuffling and mumbling and never looking exactly at anything or anybody. There are hints in the dance numbers of the over-the-top character he could have played, but those fade away quickly, and we're left with the least interesting Hook of all time. Any one of the side pirates would be more engaging as a character.

It's worth seeing for the ensemble numbers, but this version is missing the lead actors it needs to make the production pop. Let's hope NBC chooses more wisely next time.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Peter Pan Live! > The Madness of King George
Peter Pan Live! < Children of Men
Peter Pan Live! > Kiss the Girls
Peter Pan Live! < Father Goose
Peter Pan Live! < Secret Window
Peter Pan Live! > Tangled
Peter Pan Live! < Dan in Real Life
Peter Pan Live! < The Time Traveler's Wife
Peter Pan Live! < Elf
Peter Pan Live! < Connie and Carla
Peter Pan Live! < Being John Malkovich
Peter Pan Live! < Chronicle
Final spot: #829 out of 2308.

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