Reviews at Home – T.V.
Peter Pan Live aka Peter Pan the Musical
(2014 on NBC, original airdate: 12-4-14)
by Kevin Conner
IMDB and source image credit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3972398/
image copyright held by its respective owners
“Peter Pan Live” also known as “Peter Pan the Musical” is one of the worst, misshapen, misdirected, poorly written, poorly acted, live musicals I have seen since “Urine Town”. Unlike “Urine Town”, this musical was broadcast live on NBC.
Now, let me make this clear: I’m a healthy heterosexual male who enjoys musicals – yes, I said that: I enjoy good musicals; I enjoy good old musicals; I enjoy good new musicals. I believed firmly that this musical was going to make me fly! That’s probably an issue needing to be resolved with my psychiatrist. The point is this: Peter Pan is one of my favorite musicals, stories, books, and overall awesome concepts. I enjoy even mediocre productions of Peter Pan, whether they are direct to DVD or Local Theater productions, just because the whole concept and atmosphere of Neverland is a great point of escapism. I was looking forward to this. I was looking forward to seeing a live performance – something that wasn’t finely sanded, something with some mistakes here and there, because that’s what live performances are! You see every little mistake, and you also see every great triumph! Doing live theater is hard, and I appreciate live performances. So when I say that this is an atrocious production, I do not say it with a latent hipster gene pushing forth, like some mutation that forces my mouth to condemn something just because condemning things is “cool”. I say this is a terrible production because it was a terrible production! I WANTED TO SEE IT SOOOO BAD and it was just BAD BAD BAD and WRONG WRONG WRONG!
I’m sorry, that’s 9 year old me coming out. Let’s see if I can repress it enough to finish this review.
Let’s start with the white elephant in the room: Captain Hook.
Christopher Walken is a man of a very unique way of speaking. He has an accent and cadence like no other on our blue planet. So, when you cast him as someone in your production, you need to make sure you don’t try to mess with that charm. The Director, in all of his ignorant glory, decided to encourage the great Mr. Walken to try out a British Accent… and, as other reviews have said, a Russian Accent… and a Caribbean Accent…. aaaand something which sounded almost Eastern European but nobody is quite sure where that accent originated. Some may try to blame Chris, but the truth is the Director has final say on all performances allowed on his or her stage.
Thankfully, that’s the only issue with Christopher Walken’s performance, because everything else about his performance exuded a self important, pompous air of authority that is the vile and despicable Cap’n James Hook! When he dances out of step, it’s because he’s dancing to his own tune, and the others on his ship better catch up because he’s Cap’n James Hook! When he gives an order that’s quiet and stern, the other pirates better follow that order because he’s Cap’n James Hook!
Now onto Mr. Smee… a very Broadway performer who behaves in a manner similar to someone who’s acting against a mirror, someone who gives very little for anyone else’s acting style but desperately wants to show you he has been trained to act on Broadway! If only this were the only problem with Mr. Smee…. the other problem being HE’S PLAYING GEORGE DARLING! THE FATHER! You heard right – MR. SMEE is the FATHER! NO! This is WRONG! JAMES HOOK is to be the FATHER because JAMES HOOK is the THREAT to adolescence! JAMES HOOK is the threat to NEVERLAND! THE FATHER IS, ALWAYS HAS BEEN, AND ALWAYS SHOULD BE CAP’N JAMES HOOK! That is the ENTIRE CONCEPT of Neverland and James Hook! IT IS AT THE VERY CORE OF THE MESSAGE IN THE STORY! THIS IS NOT A MINOR ISSUE! THIS IS WRONG! IT SHOULD BE CAP’N JAMES HOOK, NOT “Mr. Smee”— CAP’N JAMES HOOK! NONONONONO! I don’t WANT this! It makes me ANGRY!
Terribly sorry, again. I’ll try to grow up and give this a more professional review.
Now onto Peter Pan – Wonderful actress.. very wonderful! So wonderful that you can’t forget she’s an ACTRESS and NOT an ACTOR! How do I criticize her abilities when her abilities as an actress are wonderful for an actress, but an absolute failure for an actor. Gender is a big issue because other actresses – such as Mary Martin – have usually been able to at least PRETEND they were boys, but once this woman’s voice goes into full blown song, you cannot ignore the fact she has a woman’s voice! NONONO! This is WRONG I don’t WANT this! One very clear moment where you CANNOT forget she is an actress is how she handles her shadow. With shadow in hand, Miss Williams flips her wrists here and there as if she is a dame who is nonchalantly tossing a scarf here and there – MEN DO NOT HOLD SHADOWS IN THIS WAY, if they were to hold their own shadow! Because this woman is a WONDERFUL actress, I cannot fault her for the issues… she’s never lived as a boy! NEVER! It was the DIRECTOR’S FAULT for not teaching her how to act like a BOY! She wouldn’t know how to act like a boy, she’s NEVER BEEN ONE! THIS IS WRONG! NONONO! I can’t blame her at all for this fault, so I blame the DIRECTOR! BAD BAD BAD!
Sorry, please bear with me.
Anyway, the rest of the actors aren’t much better. The children are terrible, especially the EVIL WENDY BIRD! The WENDY BIRD isn’t even a girl, she’s a WOMAN! She’s 24 years old, but successfully convinced me she was a young girl… not in the way she was meant to convince me. I had to look up her age, because her acting was so atrocious she convinced me she was a 16 year old girl who didn’t know how to act. ALL of the actors who are playing the Darling Children go into a false lower octave while acting, especially so with the EVIL WENDY BIRD. One of the tell tale signs of poor acting is when a person drops their voice an octave in order to pretend and show you they are changing their emotions. To make matters worse, this EVIL WENDY BIRD is potentially a scene stealing PIRATE. She literally stepped in front of Michael to shut him out of the frame. She was forward of her mark – left from the viewer’s perspective. Michael literally had to lean forward to get his head into the view of the camera, as he, the kid that he was, diligently made sure he was on his mark. You can then see the EVIL WENDY BIRD step back to her mark, just as I predicted moments before she did so, just to make sure that the rigging could pull her up properly. There is an OFF chance this was the Director’s fault and not the Actress’ fault, for the sole purpose of framing her in the center so those with Standard Def T.V.s wouldn’t see her half cut off. If that is the case, then the Director really messed up, because it looks bad on the actress. Tink, for the first time in years of watching Pan and cursing you for betraying the code of the Lost Boys, you convinced me: the EVIL WENDY BIRD and her Brothers must die at the hands of James Hook!
The Lost boys – are now grown men who more closely resemble the children lost at sea in the book: Lord of the Flies than they do children lost and forgotten from the world, forced to eek out a living in the wild and unforgiving Neverland. They are not the LOST BOYS of Pan’s history, boys who survive by their wits, boys who dressed up in animal skins and played survivalist! This is further evidence of CASTING AND DIRECTORIAL FAILURE, because if you’re going to have GROWN MEN play LOST BOYS then put a GROWN MAN as PETER PAN! THIS IS WRONG! WRONG WRONG WRONG! THIS IS WRONG!
Sorry, again… I’ll do my be… NO, I WONT! THAT’S IT! My 9 year old self is RIGHT! The ONLY good things about this show are Cap’n Hook, the VERY FEMININE actress playing Peter Pan, and the SET DESIGN! They even MESSED UP TINK with this HORRIBLE second rate computer graphic overlay! If you’re going to be second rate, then just use a FRIGGIN SPOTLIGHT! If you’re FORCING kids to use their imagination, then MAKE THEM USE THEIR IMAGINATION! This is friggin’ TERRIBLE!
The script is even worse. Christopher Walken tried his best, but the lines were STILTED! Dear GODS, if you’re going to tweak the script of a legendary novel, play and musical, then MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW TO TWEAK IT RIGHT!
I’ve centered only on a few aspects of this show, but believe me, there are so many reasons to have so many complaints about the casting and direction that you are free to pick your favorite one from any one of dozens of critics on the internet! Now, I admit, my 9 year old self may be a little overbearing in this review, and maybe things aren’t THAT bad, but they are pretty bad.
Using all I can to evaluate everything from a neutral perspective, I can honestly say the direction is minimal at best for normal scenes and staging – 2 stars, but I’m giving it 1 1/2 stars because the DIRECTOR FORGOT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A BOY and in FORGETTING that he FORGOT how to DIRECT the GIRL to ACT like a BOY! Hell, all he needed to do was make Allison Williams watch a copy of Patty Duke’s Billie from 1965! She was more a tomboy Peter Pan than Williams could ever hope to be! Patty Duke walked like a boy, talked like a boy, acted like a boy, threw things around like a boy, and SANG like a boy, and her character was STILL A GIRL! I don’t blame Allison at all, because she was relying upon the Director to tell her when she was acting like a girl or acting like a boy. Afterall, she never lived life as a boy, so how the HELL could she EVER know when she’s NOT acting like a boy!? That ALONE was the Director’s responsibility! It was HIS FAULT! HIS HIS HIS! 1 1/2 stars.
The production is very difficult to rate, because the actual set designs are awesome, but that’s just it – they overpower these actors! That’s not the set’s fault, that’s the fault of the Casting Director. At most I can give this Production a 3 star rating, and that’s only because the sets are that powerful. However, the crocodile is one crocodile at which I will never break a smile – not at this neon blue joke of a costume.
The acting? That is a living joke. I count two people who are wonderful in this – Christopher Walken, and Nana; and I count one person who is a great Actress, who should’ve NEVER been cast as Peter without learning how to be and act like a Boy FIRST! Everyone else is terrible! When a DOG is a better actor than the majority of the cast – YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING WRONG! 1 1/4 stars for Acting.
The choreography – is just AWFUL! The scene with the lost boys meeting Princess Tigerlily is cringe worthy nightmare fuel that makes you wonder if the Choreographer’s night job is at a local striptease parlor, or working with the Village People! The choreography in this show does NOT BELONG! It is WRONG WRONG WRONG! BAD BAD BAD! NONONO! How, and where do I put that in here? I must regretfully just add it to the direction. The reason why, well, it’s on the same level as all of the other direction. Unfortunately, I cannot lower the direction any further, because, as I said in the previous sentence, it’s on the same level.
The script? Because this was a great script that was further adapted to be worse than all other adaptations – 1 and 1/2 stars. It’s one thing to make a bad script from scratch, it takes real lack of talent to make a good script marginally worse. That’s what this script writer did, and that’s why they are below the minimal of 2.
As far as editing goes – eh, it was a live performance, they did pretty good. I didn’t see any massive flub ups, but because I can’t say they did a stellar job, 2 1/2.
Sound, they botched it big time. In some telecasts it sounded like a real bad dub job for the spoken lines. To make matters worse – PAN SOUNDS LIKE A WOMAN WHEN SHE SINGS! The musical director did a horrible job of trying to make people think she was a Boy when Allison opened her mouth. This is just awful. None of the other cast can manage to sing well, outside of the Pirates and Walken, and most of the songs were baseline mediocrity. 1 1/2 stars, though, because, honestly, I did enjoy some of the songs despite these multiple failings.
This production has few highlights. Someone who has NEVER seen ANY Pan production that has EVER graced the theater, small screen or big screen, is probably going to find this relatively enjoyable. Lots of little kids will say “YAY” when they see them fly, because they have NEVER BEEN EXPOSED TO A PROPER PRODUCTION! That’s fine, though. It’s ok to enjoy a bad production, especially from your childhood. However, the fact this is BAD, with ALL of the money plugged into it, and all of the special favors called in to make it happen, is testament to why it’s a colossal failure. This is why I’m so torn, and why I just want to throw a tantrum and scream NONONONO! THIS IS WRONG! WRONG WRONG WRONG! It’s not the worst thing I’ve seen, not by far, but THIS IS BAD! BAD BAD BAD! Go out and buy Mary Martin’s 1960 Peter Pan before buying this dreck! Go out and buy Walt Disney’s 1953 Pan before you buy this dreck! Go out and buy Jason Isaacs’ 2003 Pan before buying this dreck! Heck, I haven’t watched it yet, but I have read decent things about Cathy Rigby’s 2000 Pan, it HAS to be better than this dreck (I mean, at least THEY got it right and Cap’n Hook is also Mr. Darling in that production)! THIS PAN IS BAD BAD BAD! I DON’ WANNA SEE IT AGAIN! BYE!
Ima go play my games now, kay, bye.
Direction: 1 1/2
Script: 1 1/2
Acting: 1 1/4
Editing: 2 1/2
Sound: 1 1/2
Overall (rounded up) 2 out of 4*
*If you watch this, then know you are watching this for only three reasons: Christopher Walken, Nana the Dog and the Glorious Sets. I hope Allison Wilson’s career is a juggernaut, because she needs to put this drek behind her as soon as possible, before it hurts her reputation. She deserves better.
Cast and Production Information
Christian Borle (Mr. Smee / George Darling)
Christopher Walken (Captain Hook)
(and many more, whom probably wish to remain anonymous)
Based on the book by:
Glenn Weiss (live television direction)
Sony Pictures Television
Additional Distribution Partners:
National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (2014) (USA) (TV)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment (2014) (USA) (DVD)