Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The acting is mostly good; Sets look great
Cons: CW’s Captain Hook, most of the songs, and the crocodile
The Bottom Line:
Basic story fun
But version never takes flight
Pass it right on by
I Don’t Think This Version of Peter Pan Will Ever Grow Up on Me
I have long loved the Disney animated version of Peter Pan, and even the live action version from a few years back was fun. (At least I thought so, anyway.) However, the one time I saw the Mary Martin version, I was less than impressed. That was almost enough to get me to skip last week’s showing of Peter Pan Live!, but I decided to give it a try. I should have skipped it.
This is a musical retelling of the story of Peter Pan, and anyone who is familiar with the story will know what happens here. Peter (Allison Williams) is the boy who won’t grow up, and he’s found this is possible in Neverland, a land filled with pirates, Indians, mermaids, and adventure. He has found the window of the Darling family and loves listening to the stories Wendy (Taylor Louderman) tells her brothers John (Jake Lucas) and Michael (John Allyn). When they meet Peter, he teaches them all to fly and takes them to Neverland. However, his enemy Captain Hook (Christopher Walken) has just returned to the island with plans to get his revenge. Will Wendy be safe? Will Peter prevail?
Once again, this is an all new, live performance of a classic musical designed to be broadcast on one night only. The sets were wonderful and were a huge visual draw. In addition to looking great, they allowed for the song and dance numbers and still left room for the camera to capture it all. Pretty impressive.
And the story itself is still good. Despite my complaints to come, I can’t fault that in the slightest. In fact, Peter is slightly less self-absorbed than he is in other versions of the story, so that is a definite plus.
So where does this version fail? Part of it is the music. There were two songs I liked, “I’m Flying” and “I Won’t Grow Up.” The rest of them were pretty bad and boring. They didn’t make me want to sing along. The dancing was more impressive, and it helped make the songs more bearable, but it could only do so much.
While the acting was mostly good, another huge flaw was Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. To me, he looked like he was bored with the entire thing from start to finish. I’m not saying that Hook has to be over the top, but he needs some life and menace to him. Any scene he was in was flat. No, he wasn’t as bad as Carrie Underwood last year, but it was certainly close.
Just like last year, the performances seemed a little nervous and rushed at the beginning, but as the cast got over their nerves, things smoothed out. I’m not going to fault them there at all. In keeping with tradition, a woman played Peter Pan, and Allison Williams was great as the boy who won’t grow up. She even made the part where she had to break the fourth wall work, something that Mary Martin certainly didn’t do. In a tweak of tradition, Christian Borle played both Mr. Darling and Smee (instead of Hook). Honestly, if I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have guessed. The two characters looked and acted so different. He was great. And Taylor Louderman was fantastic in what can be the thankless role of Wendy, breathing life into the character.
Some people complained about seeing the wires when the characters were flying. That didn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s a staple of Broadway productions, and that is essentially what this is. Even in the old version, you could see those wires, and I found this charming to a certain extent. Besides, how were they supposed to cover them?
There is one more thing I have to take this production to task for, however – the crocodile. No, I didn’t expect them to have a real one on stage with the actors. But who came up with that blue monstrosity? No, I’m not kidding, it was blue. And it was very robotic in its movements. It was completely laughable and detracted as well.
As you can imagine, I won’t be rushing back to watch Peter Pan Live! again. Instead, I’ll stick with the ones I already have when I want to visit Neverland.