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Review: Peter Pan Live!

Updated on June 1, 2015
Cathy Rigby is the perfect Peter.
Cathy Rigby is the perfect Peter.

When Allison Williams' casting was announced, Joanna and Michael (your average theatre novice and tv lovers) cried out, "But she's a girl!"

Little did they know that all but one of the major productions of Peter Pan had the titular character played by a woman, so there's no complaints here.

But the thing is ... there are very few Cathy Rigbys. Only one, in fact! Anyone trying to fill her shoes has an unfairly huge task on their hands. Rigby perfectly demonstrates why the role is often played by a woman - the acrobatics involved are quite intense, and to be able to do those while singing live needs the physicality and stamina beyond that of a boy who can still hit those high notes. Buuuut the choreography was simplified for Live!, so was it necessary?

With no disrespect to Rigby, Williams is just too dang beautiful to convincingly play a preteen boy. With her shapely legs and perfect hair, it makes Live! seem more like Wendy's lesbian self-discovery story more than anything else. We think they should have just hired Rigby, as over the past thirty years she has perfected the role, but heh, sex sells when you're portaying an eternal youth!

Rampant shallowness aside, she did give a good perfomance, both in her acting and singing. After a while, while it's going a bit far to say we forgot she was a woman, we certainly forgot she was Williams.

Walken the plank.
Walken the plank.

As for the rest of the cast, who could be more perfect for Captain Hook than Christopher Walken? He's basically a living cartoon! Of course, if we were in charge of casting, Rigby would be fighting against Dustin Hoffman, who played Hook in Hook.

In most productions, Mr Darling is played by the same actor as Captain Hook. But Live! took the unusual decision to have the dual role shared by Smee, possibly because of the amount of makeup Walken wears for the role of Hook, which might not allow time for him to play both roles.

As well as an adult playing Peter, the Lost Boys are all played by those who probably can't remember their school years too. Willing suspension of disbelief can only go so far, and when we hear undisguised man voices singing about their refusal to grow up, we do wonder if Neverland only affects the minds rather than bodies of its denizens. There are also far more than five (six, if Nibs is included, which he often isn't) Lost Boys.

Some changes were made to the format and storyline, to make it longer -- gotta have lots of ad space! Most of these changes are fine, and Hook's plan to blow up Neverland fills time usefully. But some of the padding feels exactly like that - padding. When Peter arrives, he and Wendy talk about nothing while wandering the corridors of the Darling House, for instance.

A change we didn't like was the relocating of the song House for Wendy. Rather than having Peter and co building a house around her, they ... clean their hidden den. Maybe they wanted to go into the den quicker, but in that case remove some of the useless material before this scene rather than needlessly moving a good song!

That said, the den set - and all others - looks great. The effects are all amazing, especially as they must have been done physically, given the nature of the live broadcast! That said, the flying strings are clearly visible, but given the choice between seeing a wire and seeing someone fall to their death, we'd go for the nice strong wires!


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