Theatre Thursday :: my thoughts on Peter Pan (live)

11 Dec

For some reason or another, I grew up with a VHS copy of the old production, with Mary Martin as Peter, and probably just because I watched the same things over and over when I was bored as a kid, I’ve probably seen that production something like thirty times.  Of course, it’s been years and years, during which I both read the book twice (once for fun, once for school) then analyzed the hell out of it accordingly and became considerably more versed in musical theatre and media theory and the world.  But none of this is why we watched NBC’s new production of Peter Pan.

No, we tuned in because it was gonna be a damn shitshow and that is irresistible.  (Or rather we recorded it and then watched it over the weekend when we could drink our way through it.  I really should have had the foresight to save the tipsy texts I liveblogged at my drift partner, as they were apparently gold, but I remember the gist of them and this will be considerably more coherent.)  And true enough, it was a damn shitshow and it was irresistible.

As with The Sound of Music last year (and hopefully many more musicals for many more years) the casting formula here seemed to be: completely incongruous celebrity not traditionally associated with musical theatre (this time, Christopher Walken) + star of an HBO television program that the children watching this musical should not look into for many years, if ever (this time, Girls‘ Allison Williams) + actual Broadway actors for the other adults (this time, Kelli freaking O’Hara and, again, our buddy Christian Borle) + whoever the hell for the children.  (We’ve since been speculating about who might be stuntcast next.  I’m really hoping that Pedro Pascal can sing, honestly.)  This formula is not successful if your definition of success is a seamless, unquestionable performance, but it is successful if your definition of success is a production that you can giggle at while imbibing cocktails.

Allison Williams, who I keep wanting to call “Marnie” even though while I will admit to watching Girls I don’t particularly like it, is a better actress than last year’s Carrie Underwood, and that’s something.  One of my people was disappointed in her “crowing” skills during “I Gotta Crow,” and I will agree that they weren’t what I was expecting.  Overall her performance was acceptable but also uninspiring, and I was glad to learn that I wasn’t the only person confused by her costume’s inclusion of fishnet.

Taylor Louderman, who played Wendy, was similarly acceptable but uninspiring, but I mention her just to mention that my people kept remarking about her resemblance to Twin Peaks‘ Laura Palmer (played by Sheryl Lee).  I am a philistine and have not yet seen Twin Peaks, but I proceeded to Google Laura Palmer and see that that was eerily true.

Alanna Saunders, who played Tiger Lily, actually has Native American heritage, so that’s cool I guess. And while not all of the male chorus members playing her tribesmen appeared Native American, none of them appeared white, so that’s also… something…?  And one of the many changes to the musical numbers was changing the lyrics of the most racist number from the 1954 production, so that’s also something.

Kelli O’Hara as Mrs. Darling had very little to do but was brilliant.  When one of my people tried to talk during one of her songs, my other person and I shushed him loudly.  You don’t talk while Kelli O’Hara is singing.  He didn’t try to talk over Christian Borle, though, because we all love Christian Borle equally much.  In his double roles as Mr. Darling and Smee, he managed to keep the production at least doggy-paddling when otherwise it might have sunk.

And… Christopher Walken.  I didn’t remember nearly any of the songs he sang and am positive that at least a couple of them were new to this production, but Christopher Walken is always just… Christopher Walken.  The ellipsis is almost a prerequisite when discussing him.  There aren’t words for his demeanor, honestly.  His distinctive voice and somehow always just a little bit uninterested expression.  The fact that they put a footrest in his throne like it was a La-Z-Boy recliner.  The way he strutted around talking through all of his musical numbers.  More than once I laughed uproariously, though I’m sure it wasn’t because of something they intended to be funny.

Overall, it was marginally less trainwrecky than The Sound of Music but also less memorable.

–your fangirl heroine.

valid optimism

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