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TV review

Williams shines, Walken chews scenery in live ‘Peter Pan’

NBC’s “Peter Pan Live!” on Thursday night was endlessly, weirdly watchable, which is not the same thing as a coherent artistic triumph. But on balance television needs more of this kind of daring.

Allison Williams (“Girls”) gets huge props for singing, dancing, flying, and tumbling pretty much flawlessly through three hours as Peter. She threw herself into every dance step and every emotion, and she ought to be able to write her own ticket to a Broadway show after this.

Glitches were few in what was literally a three-hour high-wire act. NBC techs had difficulty erasing the flyers’ wires at times, but the performers didn’t crash into one another or the scenery.

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Of course, some people tuned in just to see Christopher Walken chew that scenery as Captain Hook, and they were not disappointed.

This was a fey pirate in a league with Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, but infused with Walken’s special late-Brando brand of crazy, all weird line readings and spaced-out pauses. But network television needs more sights like Hook tapping out a beat on a tambourine with his shiny metal appendage while hip-swiveling his way through a dance number. Is Ryan Landry directing this thing?

Taylor Louderman sang well in the relatively thankless role of upright Wendy Darling, all golden hair and blue eyes and long cotton nightgown. With Williams in a fishnet shirt and leather belts, there was a bit of adult Twitter chat about their chemistry.

Among the supporting cast, kudos go to Christian Borle (in a dual role as the strait-laced Mr. Darling and Hook’s odious sidekick Smee) and to whoever was in that crocodile suit.

Nearly as nuts as Walken was the set design for Neverland, with its flower-topped trees, brightly colored giant mushrooms, and a slide down into the Lost Boys’ lair, like some tripped-out 1970s Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday show.

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The production was generally ingenious, with cast moving between sets while Steadicams and crane cameras swooped alongside and around them like a Fox NFL telecast. Music was pre-recorded but the singing was live.

Whether we see any more gambles like this will depend on whether the ratings match up to the huge numbers generated by last year’s “The Sound of Music Live!” with Carrie Underwood. It is doubtful that Walken brings the same fans as the country star, but maybe there were enough.


Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@gmail.com