REVIEW: Peter Pan Live!, The Shows Must Go On

Having originally broadcast in 2014, Peter Pan Live! is an uplifting and enjoyable production.

Virginia Sherwood/NBC | 2014 NBCUniversal Media, LLC.

Confession time: I have found it difficult in the past to really enjoy or appreciate the story Peter Pan. This isn’t so much down to the story by J.M. Barrie but in the way it has been staged or filmed – and is in fact the only Disney adaptation that I don’t really like.

However, this performance directed by Rob Ashford was a really delightful and elaborate take on the story. Filled with plenty of creative pieces of magic, a cast who fully embraced their characters and impressive set designs that whisk the audience from London to Neverland and back again.

Originally broadcast in 2014, this production as well as being based on J.M Barrie’s original story, is also based on the 1954 Broadway musical – featuring music by  Moose Charlap and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, which includes gorgeous songs such as ‘Tender Shepherd’ and ‘Neverland’ while managing to have fun with new numbers (not included in original musical) such as ‘Vengeance’ and ‘Wonderful World Without Peter’ that blend in with the original score.

With production design by Derek McLane and costume design by Catherine Zuber, there is plenty to also admire visually. In particular, the attention to detail in both the Darling’s house and the pirates costumes really enhance the theatrical feel of the show. Meanwhile, the way in which Ashford has directed the show with clever camera angles and tricks allows the audience to effectively feel as though they are in Neverland with the characters and it is possible to forget you are watching it on screen.

Also deserving of praise is Ashford’s choreography which is inventive, lively and reflects the story and its sense of daring adventure. In particular the routines for ‘Vengeance’ and ‘Wendy’ are fabulous’ but it is also the choreography between numbers that is really effective, the sequence in which we are introduced to the Lost Boys – filled seamless and effortless looking acrobatic type choreography captures the spirited nature of the boys.

If there is a slight flaw, it feels as though the energy in the performance starts to run out towards the end, with the final fight between Peter and Captain Hook coming across as slightly flat. It is a shame as that is of course is what the story has ultimately been leading up to.

Meanwhile, the cast all fully embrace their characters. In particular – Christopher Walken is impressive as Captain Hook, wonderfully dry humoured and laid back – even when reprimanding his crew. It is a novel approach and actually works well as opposed to previous over the top characterisations in other adaptations. Allison Williams delivers a decent performance, in particular when capturing Peter’s pain at his neglect with her performance of ‘When I Went Home’ proving to be a real highlight. But somehow she just lacks occasionally Peter’s bravado and spirit. Kelli O’Hara is wonderfully warm as Mrs Darling with (of course) pitch perfect vocals. Jake Lucas (John) John Allyn as (Michael) and Taylor Louderman (Wendy) deliver confident performances.

Overall, this was a really surprise of a show and is impressive visually and musically from start to finish.

By Emma Clarendon

Peter Pan Live is available to watch through Universal’s The Shows Must Go On Youtube channel  until tomorrow evening– except due to rights reasons in Asia and Latin America.


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