Music by Morris ‘Moose’ Charlap and Jule Styne
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
Following their live airing of a performance of The Sound of Music in December 2013, US TV network NBC continued this new tradition twelve months later by doing the same with another family-friendly musical. This review is of the soundtrack from the “holiday Broadway musical event” as opposed to the broadcast itself.
Despite mixed reviews The Sound of Music was a ratings winner that had the network wanting more. Whereas their previous choice of musical came with pre-existing baggage and a bona fide definitive version in the 1965 film, Peter Pan doesn’t really carry such expectations. This has allowed some freedom with the source material and anyone familiar with the show’s previous incarnations either through a soundtrack or one of the previously filmed productions will notice a complete overhaul of the score. Songs have been added (mainly to give Captain Hook more to do) and as with ‘I’m an Indian Too’ in recent versions of Annie Get Your Gun, the racially questionable “Ugg-a-Wugg” has been completely replaced.
The catchy score has never sounded better. Richly orchestrated and perfectly played, it evokes classic Broadway or the familiar quality of the great MGM musicals.The supporting cast match this standard with the chorus delivering lusty renditions of the songs whether as Lost Boys, Pirates or Indians. However, this musical depends heavily on the casting of Pan and Hook. And here is where this CD is rather lacking in magic pixie dust….
As is traditional, Peter is played by a female – in this case Allison Williams. Although she has no notable musical theatre experience, she does display solid vocals. Unfortunately her portrayal of the rambunctious Pan is far from satisfactory. Sporting a flawless cut-glass English accent, Williams offers no effort to act like a boy, particularly one with such a lust for adventure as Peter has. The necessary defiance in “I Won’t Grow Up” and bravado of “I Gotta Crow” are completely absent with these songs being delivered completely straight. Her performance is more Poppins than Pan and if she has not been miscast, she most certainly has been misdirected.
Christopher Walken plays Captain Hook as… well, Christopher Walken. Initially his casting seems like a stroke of genius considering his famously intense and unnerving film performances, as well as a penchant for showing off his song and dance skills at the drop of a hat. However, like Williams his performance is rather one-note and although his unmistakable way of delivering lines is present, it seems rather insubstantial for a rôle that should really be filled by (frankly) a scenery-chewing ham.
Williams and Walken’s performances dominate this CD and while they are both unsuited to their rôles neither has unpleasant vocals. The rest of the orchestra and supporting cast are pitch perfect (with special mention to Taylor Louderman as Wendy and Christian Borle as Smee) allowing the positives just about outweigh the negatives to the point where one is left hoping that NBC is able to continue with their new annual tradition.
This CD is a good souvenir of the TV broadcast and will hopefully give this criminally over-looked musical a much wider audience. It just may be worth your while though to search out the Cathy Rigby version instead.