An HD 'Peter Pan,' A CG Tinker Bell — And A LOL Captain Hook

Christopher Walken as Captain Hook in Thursday night's "Peter Pan Live!" (Virginia Sherwood/NBC)
Christopher Walken as Captain Hook in Thursday night's "Peter Pan Live!" (Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

You go, Girl. Boy. Boy-Girl. Whatever.

If Mary Martin introduced Baby Boomers into the gender-bending ways of the second half of the 20th century, what will Allison Williams, with her touch of cleavage, do to today’s generations?

I suppose there are more important things to worry about. Though I don’t envy parents whose 6-year-olds start downloading “Girls” on YouTube.

Of course Mary Martin also introduced Baby Boomers to Broadway singing. Allison Williams? Maybe not. I think the delightful Nana held notes longer than Williams and my Aunt Fanny wielded a sword with more dexterity.

Allison Williams as Peter Pan. (Virginia Sherwood/NBC)
Allison Williams as Peter Pan. (Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Williams has a pleasant enough voice and a warm presence, but it all grew tiresome after three Wal-Mart-enhanced hours. Still, she wasn’t the disaster some feared/hoped for. And after the ratings sensation of “The Sound of Music” with Carrie Underwood last year, great Broadway singing was not the top priority for NBC in casting Mr. Pan.

What was the priority, and who was the audience? Families, for sure. And to judge from early tweets at #PeterPanLive, mothers with kids were delighted with the show. (They were probably less delighted that it ended at 11 p.m.)

But in this irony-drenched world we live in, NBC was just as happy if you hated it. So the other main audience was those who were watching their Twitter feeds more closely than the TV. NBC even promoted the snark-filled (and very funny) #PeterPanLive during the telecast.

And then there are those silly folks who tuned in to see if the current “Peter Pan Live!” could capture the sense of magic that the original Mary Martin productions did. I don’t pretend to be the voice of a generation, but …

Try as hard as NBC did with a CG Tinker Bell and HD neon scenery, this “Peter Pan Live!” was about as magical as C-Span. It wasn’t just the Allison Williams smile that seemed like a toothpaste ad, the flying that didn’t seem much different from 60 years ago, the musical numbers that never exploded, the crocodile from another planet, the sugary video or the disembodied audio.

The harder “Peter Pan Live!” tried to wow us the more divorced from great theatricality it seemed. I am not a huge fan of theater and opera in HD at the movies. It’s as if the more that technology allows the cameras to roam free, the less theatrical a theatrical presentation becomes.

Christopher Walken as Hook and Christian Borle as Smee. (Virginia Sherwood)
Christopher Walken as Hook and Christian Borle as Smee. (Virginia Sherwood)

Case in point — Christopher Walken. For all the joking about Walken’s mannerisms, he is one of the great stage actors in the country, as anyone who saw “The Dead” or “A Behanding in Spokane” can tell you. Walken was the star of the #PeterPanLive Twitter feed as well as the “Peter Pan Live!” telecast.

Tweeters seemed divided as to whether they were witnessing genius or lunacy. When you see Walken live you realize it’s genius, absolutely. On TV it seems more lunatic. My take? I think there’s a little lunacy in most every genius so I was happy to go with Walken’s ennui-suffused Hook.

And let’s face it, there wasn’t much to dispel the ennui in this dragged-out, commercial-heavy three hours, including a promo for daddy Brian Williams. (You’d think NBC would want to downplay any hint of nepotism.)

So three cheers for Christopher Walken’s Hook and Christian Borle’s Smee. Or as Walken called him, “Shmee.” It’s as if Hook/Walken couldn’t stand the sanctimony/bad acting around him. “Even in his sleep [Peter Pan] infuriates me,” says Hook. And the guy’s dancing and singing were as witty as his acting.

The only problem is you’re not supposed to root for Hook, and it’s a losing proposition if you do.

But he took his plank-walking with grace and characteristic flair, telling the crocodile at the end, "Don't rush me."

In my mind, at least, Hook escaped the crocodile and even now is planning to wipe the smile off of Peter's face.


Headshot of Ed Siegel

Ed Siegel Critic-At-Large
Ed Siegel is critic-at-large for WBUR.



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