There were so many times tonight when I was watching Peter Pan Live on NBC that I was suddenly transported back to my living room in Michigan watching a VHS copy of Peter Pan with Mary Martin. And when I was reminded of those times, I reluctantly decided that the old version was better.
Yes, the NBC version had some improvements. The scenery was amazing - especially the complete nursery set. Having Nana actually be a real dog was great - he did an amazing job! (Too bad they couldn't've had a trained crocodile, too.)
The dancing was amazing pretty much the whole way through. The kid who played Michael was having a ball hanging out with those Lost Boys - even though he had to wear footie pajamas. My cast MVPs are all the pirates, Lost Boys, and Indians, for sure.
But there were a few clunkers.
The choice to use a computer animated Tinkerbell was a bad idea. The animation looked like old '90s CGI rather than an innovative prop. Is it so hard to use a light?
Allison Williams tried her best, but there were points where I thought, "Man, Mary Martin really brought out the youthfulness and playfulness in this part!" Williams seemed a bit too proper to play a boy, and that can be said about her singing, too. In "I Gotta Crow," Martin always had such glee - especially when singing "Nat-ur-al-leeee!" Williams tried, but just didn't hit the mark. Oddly enough, I think her voice was too low! She did improve a bit during the show.
Christopher Walken seemed to try a British accent at the beginning, and didn't even try singing. Even his last word in the tango was so soft the mic couldn't pick it up. But was he milking it for all it's worth? Yes.
Sometimes the soundtrack (it wasn't live instrumentation) was too loud to hear what the actors were saying - that happened in "I'm Flying" and "Tender Shepherd" - one of the best parts of "Tender Shepherd" is the round between Wendy, John, Michael, and Mrs. Darling. Due to sound issues, you couldn't hear the round!
But let's put the comparisons aside. Was this a good musical to introduce to your kids? Absolutely! The scenery was colorful, and there was always something going on. Everything was incredibly attractive to kiddos watching - even if the show went to 11pm.
If the point was to introduce children to the fun of musical theater and remind us older folk about the fun we had with this show in our youth, it did its job. After all, my sister texted me halfway in, saying, "There needs to be an old school Campbell's soup commercial right about now," since our VHS had commercials like that! Ah, nostalgia. A good thing for this time of year. Well done, Peter Pan Live.