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12/5/14

8 Aspects About Peter Pan Live! I'm Still Thinking About

It came, it happened and it went…Peter Pan Live….oh wait, Peter Pan Live! Note the exclamation mark. 

Under normal circumstances, I usually wear my bitch-pants when tackling any sort of theatre - and we’ll get to my criticisms, don’t you worry - but I am feeling uncharacteristically kind this morning in the wake of such divided opinions on the production details and performances, as well as critics everywhere hating the fuck out of the three-hour long affair. As a concept, I really want these once-a-year live musicals to keep happening - hell, I can’t name something on television I’d rather watch in real time - but there is concept and execution and while Peter Pan Live! faltered on both, how ‘mad’ can you really get?


Was Peter Pan ever really that good to begin with? - The thing with The Sound of Music is that, in its constructs, it manages to hold up well, no matter what year it is or what age an audience member is. Peter Pan? Not so much, unfortunately. It has been a while since I saw any musical variation of the story, but watching and tweeting about it last night and…well, I seriously doubt the quality of the original material to begin with. Not just the racism undertones and hoary gender politics (I hope my daughter will fly away with Peter…to CLEAN!), but the overt sexual-ness. In a children’s show. Best not to think about it too much, even though suspending disbelief was incredibly difficult last night with the central lesbian relationship, a squad of ‘adult’ Lost Boys I’d hop in the sack with and a bicep and bulge-sporting Christian Borle.

And speaking of which, Christian "Bangin’ Biceps" Borle - It's decided; he’s a stud. Pulling a page from the Ramin Karimloo handbook, Borle’s tatted-up guns broke Twitter when his short-sleeved Smee entered the frame. And while I can’t say I loved or even liked either of his performances last night (to be fair, this is a guy whose career is filled wire-to-wire with some stellar work and neither role gave him the opportunity to chew the scenery or steal the show), he still managed to leave an impression. Even if that impression is as simple as, “I WENT TO THE GYM LATELY.”

The Smile of the Steele - After drooling over Ryan Steele’s million dollar smile (quite frankly, worth the price of admission had I paid anything to watch the broadcast), I woke up this morning cancer-free. I’m not reiterating that his smile can prevent or cure cancer…but I’m also not not saying that.

Derek McLane. Set Design Superstar - Okay, no being wishy-washy on this one; I loved McLane’s scenic designs. Much like Donyale Werle’s Tony-winning set for Peter and the Starcatcher, the Pirate Ship and the Island of Neverland were appropriate and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but didn’t overwhelm the screen or scar your retinas.

And now introducing, Broadway’s Kelli O’Hara - HAHAHAHA, JK, JK…we already know her. And we love her, for good reason. While this production did not have a Laura Benanti-esque flawless performance, she was the closest thing to it with her maybe twelve minutes of stage screen time. She sang beautifully (duh) and actually made Mrs. Darling…like, matter and stuff. Just like the consummate professional to leave the audience wanting more of her whenever she departed the scene.

Taylor Louderman for Everything - Honestly, in terms of the main cast's performances, hers was the most consistent of all the lead characters last night. And considering she plays the most passive, least-fun character of the bunch, her commitment to that naive, “I’m just a girl who wound up in Neverland” schtick is additionally commendable. Most people probably never heard of Taylor prior to last night - I only know her from her lead role in Bring It On: The Musical a few years back - but she should be able to tout Peter Pan Live! on her resume without getting a side-eye or resting bitch face.

In Which I Come to Allison Williams Defense - She wasn’t bad, you guys. I can always make way for a flamingly awful performance in the "Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music Live!" mold (a performance I lovingly joke about to this day), but Williams’ singing was more then tolerable and she had a few high marks throughout the night. I’ll even go one step further - even when she looked expressionless or was being boring, I’ll chalk it up to director Rob Ashford wanting to reign in the entire production from going too over-the-top or too campy (that obviously didn’t work, but he tried). You can see the signs of that notion everywhere, but particularly with Williams' and Christopher Walken’s performances (although, the latter can be attributed to Walken and his dearth of fucks to give).

The Unsung Hero of the Night - Dancing. Oh, the dancing. I’m no choreography queen and on the list of aspects I appreciate in a good musical, it is probably fifth or sixth down the line. But for all of Rob Ashford’s faults - I personally think he is a horrible director and lends weight to the idea that choreographers approach directing a production with the dancing first and everything else is an afterthought - when those Newsies Lost Boys, the Pirates and everyone else started dancing, I stopped my Twitter-browsing and paid full attention. They were exciting, occasionally funny and full of more charisma then anything else offered up. And, in a sentiment echoed by the online commentariat last night, that is what children watched and might even be inspired to pursue acting or to seek out more theatre. For what its worth, these annual broadcasts can sit with us on that merit alone.


Photo Credit: NBC

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