I watched the first hour of Peter Pan Live last night, then switched over to Rachel Maddow where they had a whole different live TV show going on: feeds of demonstrations from Chicago, New York, and other places on behalf of Eric Garner and justice.
As for the attempt at theatre on TV on NBC, it was inoffensive. Allison Williams has a very nice singing voice and she was able to carry off the illusion of being a boy on the verge of puberty, carrying on the tradition of having a woman play the role that goes back to Maude Adams. She had the tough task of rising to the bar set by Mary Martin, but then the target audience for this performance had no idea who Mary Martin was. I’m pretty sure even their parents weren’t around when she flew in the window. From what I saw, Ms. Williams did a good job.
Casting Christopher Walken as Captain Hook was, as they say in the business, a bold move. It’s harking back to his early days as a hoofer on Broadway (he was in the chorus of the 1964 Noel Coward musical High Spirits), and I’m sure he approached it with his trademark intensity. But again he had to fill the pumps of the legendary Cyril Ritchard (who also played Mr. Darling in a bit of Freudian double-casting), and while Mr. Walken’s performance in the pirate production number was interesting to say the least, he came across as more menacing than flamboyantly vicious. Even Dustin Hoffman in Hook had more fun. Besides, what’s the point of playing Captain Hook if you can’t camp it up?
I guess I’m just a nostalgic curmudgeon, but I liked it better seeing it in grainy black and white on our old Magnavox TV-radio-phono console in the living room when I was eight. It was more theatrical. You knew you were watching theatre, and seeing the cables that made the kids fly added to the fun. Last night it was more a distraction knowing that they were staging it for TV.
Switching over to watch the marches on the streets of America had their own theatrical quality. This was real street theatre. There’s something karmic about changing channels from one show about fighting the forces of evil set to music to another show set to chants of “I can’t breathe.”