Monday, December 01, 2014

Will Peter Pan be hot?

Has NBC promoted their upcoming live version of PETER PAN enough? You can’t leaf through ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY or go to a pop culture website without seeing articles, videos, or discussions on the new version. Kudos to the NBC publicity department.

I was just a wee lad when PETER PAN first appeared on NBC. It was the ‘50’s, Mary Martin was Peter and thanks to 76,000,000 baby boomers still being babies the airing was a national event. The next day it was what everyone talked about at recess. We didn’t have water coolers at Van Alden Elementary School.

But even as a kid I wondered, why couldn’t they get an actual boy to play Peter? Or at least a girl who didn’t look like she was 40?

Try telling a six-year-old that it’s a long-held theater tradition to have a woman play Peter Pan. It just seemed weird. The fact that the parents go out and leave the dog in charge didn’t seem to bother me.

Will young boys today have the same gender issue? And a new wrinkle we didn’t have in the ‘50s – will older boys find Peter hot? I mean, Allison Williams is not Mary Martin. And by older boys I mean, y’know, preadolescent… to 70?

(Quick sidebar question: Does Ellen DeGeneres think she’s playing Peter Pan in real life)

Like last year’s SOUND OF MUSIC, success seems to depend on the star. Carrie Underwood, despite playing Maria as a Miss Texas contestant, attracted huge numbers. Will Allison do the same? She certainly doesn’t have the name recognition that Carrie does. AMERICAN IDOL vs. co-star of GIRLS. Suddenly all the hype makes sense. But I do think Allison will pull it off and this will give her that big-name exposure for future productions.

The other curiosity factor is Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. We know he can dance. And we know he he’s not to be trusted on the deck of a ship. (He was on the boat with Robert Wagner that fateful night.) We know that he’s super strange. Will whatever bizarre interpretation he undoubtedly will give to Captain Hook add or detract from the production? Here too, I’m guessing thumbs (or hooks) up.

And there’s one other factor. The show will air LIVE. If there’s some mishap, if the dog takes a dump, Allison flies into a wall, or Walken has a brain fart and calls Peter “Natalie” you’re going to want to see it in real time. Just having it on your DVR to watch a week later won’t do it. And in this DVR, shows-on-demand age, the only real way network television can attract a live audience is to air something live. This is why they pay such big bucks for sporting events. SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL loses something by Wednesday.

PETER PAN LIVE airs Thursday night. I'll be watching... for nostalgia and curiosity.  Hopefully I can stay up for the whole thing. After all, it is a school night.


MikeK.Pa. said...

Loved Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard as Capt. Hook and the croc with the ticking clock.

Would hope one day Chris Walken opens up about what happened that night on the Splendour, perhaps after Robert Wagner dies. I remember the news of Natalie Wood's death (anniversary was last week) like it was yesterday and how sad I was for days on end afterwards.

Matt said...

The question isn't "Will Peter Pan be Hot?" it is whether I will feel guilty the next day thinking Peter Pan is hot.

YEKIMI said...

Since Allison Williams is the daughter of NBC News anchor Brian Williams I wouldn't be surprised if he interrupted with a "breaking news" story about a shitty rendition of Peter Pan being canceled mid-show.

Dick Young's Ghost said...

The other connection between the 1955-1960 NBC version of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin and the 2014 version is that the same company - Flying by Foy - is doing the rigging so Peter and the kids can fly.They'll have much more space at the Grumman Studios on Long Island than in the old NBC Brooklyn studio complex, by far.

Barry Traylor said...

Boris Karloff played Captain Hook on Broadway in 1950. Would have loved to have seen that. Not to mention his role in Arsenic and Old Lace on Broadway, I do so wish he had been in the film also.

Jon88 said...

On second mention, it's "Carrie" and "Allison," but he's "Walken"? There's a word for this.

Kirk said...

"The other curiosity factor is Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. We know he can dance. And we know he he’s not to be trusted on the deck of a ship. (He was on the boat with Robert Wagner that fateful night.)"

Too funny

Scooter Schechtman said...

What "LIVE"? TV hasn't been live since Janet Jackson's fan dance and the industry lives in literal mortal fear that someone will say a Naughty Word. If a meteorite heads toward Earth the broadcast will be on tape delay in case the reporter says "we're fucked."

Dan Ball said...

More like PETER PAIN!

Christopher Walken as Hook seems wasted without a better Peter. At least they went with the co-star of GIRLS and not its star/creator/blowhard. We were spared from Taylor Swift as Peter Pan too, thank goodness. Now, if they wanted to tie this in with The Voice and have Adam Levine play Peter and Blake play Hook, that'd be fun. The final duel would take place on Twitter. #engardedude #thevoice #realbattleroundhere #nbcstarbucksnissansponsors

Dan said...

Based on the photo at the top of the post, NBC is doing its best to downplay the hotness.

Tom Parker said...

Thanks for making sure this sad anniversary of Natalie's mysterious death didn't escape noting, Ken.

"Live" TV on the East Coast has almost always been "taped earlier" for those of us on the West Cost. It looses a little of the nitro glycerin factor.

Todd Everett said...

Another venerable theater tradition has the same actor playing Captain Hook and the Darlings' father.

For this version, the actor who plays the father will also play Smee -- which makes the whole playing-two-roles things pointless.

It just looks like they were too cheap to hire another actor.

Danny said...

I'll be curious to see how they handle the Native American elements of the show. "Ugg-a-Wugg" is hardly a lyric enlightened 2014 folks would be singing.

BetterYeti said...

Danny - They hired a Native American consultant for the production.

Norm said...

There will be inevitable comparisons to the Martin version which aired on NBC, the Disney Channel and was released on home video.

What I think will be said in relation to the Allison W./Carrie U. topic is that whereas Carrie could sing but her acting was horrible, Allison will nail the drama but (based on the preview show I saw last week) will fall short melody wise!

Will Christopher Walken be a caricature of himself? He so much as said so in the preview show.

Cue the Peacock!

DBenson said...

Saw Sandy Duncan onstage some years ago. Sandy is cute as a button, but was tomboyish enough to sell it.

The Cathy Rigby version is pleasant, and may still be touring somewhere. In an article, Rigby talking about taking her GRANDDAUGHTER backstage for a brief unauthorized flight on the wires.

There was also a television version with Mia Farrow and Peter and Danny Kaye as Hook. It was an original script and score; the moment that stuck with me was Peter getting mad and singing an angry rant against growing up. It was a bad choice. The whole point with Peter is that he only has a notion that maturity is less fun.

Disney did the Hook/Father thing with Hans Conried voicing both, even though the characters had totally different designs. Disney also framed the story so it was explicitly a childhood dream; the ending having Father remembering and seeing what his children see for an instant.

In the play, the lost boys are very real and end up staying with the family. Also, Wendy and her brothers are off in Neverland for a much longer time. Father punishes himself by literally sleeping in the doghouse (although he does keep track of mentions in the press).

The epilogue of the original play has a slightly older Jane visiting Peter to do his spring housecleaning. She now needs a broom to fly, a consequence of growing up. She tries to talk Peter into returning to the real world with her, but he remains genuinely clueless and emotionally unconcerned that Wendy is not coming back -- an actual child.

cshel said...

Thanks, Ken. This cracked me up.

I will definitely watch, at least off and on, just for the novelty factor, but it has always bugged me that Peter Pan is usually played by a woman. I'd much prefer a guy play the role. Although, in character, Allison Williams does look like a handsome boy, as opposed to Mary Martin looking like a soccer mom.

Wayne Keyser said...

In response to your initial question: YES she is hot! (There, I finally said it.)

But regarding this version: the original musical had four or five perfect musical-theater songs in the first act, and a lackluster second act. But this version has some serious re-working. The Indians have been replaced by mermaids (the Indians were always an embarrassment) and several songs have been replaced by tunes from other (mostly failed) musicals by several of the original contributors. I'm thinking this will be a great new PETER PAN for the 21st century.

Wayne Keyser said...

Evidently I'm wrong about the Indians being entirely replaced by mermaids ... but they sure aren't using the Indians in the advance previews.

pumpkinhead said...

Honestly, as a kid watching the old version, I didn't even try making the leap. To me, she was just Petunia Pan.

Rachel said...

The Paley Center (in both New York and Los Angeles) is running the Mary Martin version every weekend through January 3-4, accompanied by excerpts from a 1988 Museum of Broadcasting seminar in which Martin reminisces about Peter Pan and teaches the audience how to crow.

Say what you want to, the audience at the screening I saw -- children and adults alike -- ate up every minute of it.

D. McEwan said...

I am massively looking forward to Walken as Hook. However bad it will be (For instance, the Lost Boys all appear to be Lost-Twentysomethings), however lame Patrice Pan is, I know I'm gonna love him.

And at least this time, we won't have a blonde Tiger Lily.

But I'll still be using the DVR. If the dog takes a dump on camera or Walken calls Peter "Natalie," it'll still be on the DVR, and then I can fast-forward through the commercials.

"Danny said...
I'll be curious to see how they handle the Native American elements of the show. 'Ugg-a-Wugg' is hardly a lyric enlightened 2014 folks would be singing."

The song Ugg-a-Wugg has had its lyrics completely rewritten.

ELP said...

I am hoping that it is as good as this version from SCTV.

Greg said...

There was also a funny SNL sketch in which Ed Asner played a middle aged Pan.

Disney's version was unique in that Peter was voiced by a boy (Bobby Driscoll). Also, in the Disney version, Hook's hook was on his left hand. Right-handed actors use the hook on the right in order to gesture with it, but the Disney animators wanted to be able to have Hook's right hand free to be expressive in the animation.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Mary Martin was more of a superstar at the time than either Underwood, Carrie, or Williams, Alison, so her appearance on TV, even at middle age, was a major event in itself.

BTW, Walt Disney's birthday is Friday. When my wife managed to give birth to my daughter on the same day, she said, right there at the birth, "I hope you appreciate how accommodating I am."

Mike said...

Couldn't he just be played by Michael Jackson?