Thursday, December 04, 2014

NBC Broadway Live Take 2

Once again the "Nothing is better than Broadway snobby haters" are out in force on the interwebs attacking NBC 's second live Broadway  musical.  I commented on  last year's Sound of Mucus and I'm reusing part of my post as it still holds true. Anyone who read my blog post about the Les Mis film knows that I am a firm believer in Apples and Oranges. I support anything that keeps theatre alive. I cheer for the success of jukebox musicals. They put butts in seats and give actors and technicians work. They also introduce new bodies to all legit theatre. If they come for Motown and return for Once and then Matilda or Kinky Boots, I say bravo, the plan works. When I was in college we had so many great and near great composers and creative teams writing shows and we took sides. Some loved Kander & Ebb, others Cy Coleman or Jerry Herman, Bock & Harnick, Schmidt & Jones, Schwartz, Lloyd Weber  and of course Sondheim. But many did not care for his work. Now as elder statesman with no ascendant successors in sight, he has become a high watermark for many comparisons and that is not fair. Broadway has changed and will continue to do so. It is in a very interesting state of being right now and if NBC doing a " live" musical or Glee's recent success help make people want to see live Theatre then let's give a standing ovation. Sound of Music was a flawed piece of theatre with some really nice songs and a maudlin, saccharin book that became overshadowed by a tremendous piece of cinema that fixed many of the flaws. And therein lies the partial root of the haters hate: they so love the film and it's star that they were blinded to most other attempts especially by a "CW" musician with no stage experience.Now, with Peter Pan, they are back to show off their self important critical wit. Now they are experts in Peter Pan. Even though they mostly know old cast albums and the Disney cartoon, they are now experts on Peter Pan. Yes, some are old codgers who will always be curmudgeons carping about " how wonderful Mary Martin was and the old TV show was. Their memory, unfortunately, is clouded by the wonders of childhood memories. Others have no idea how  many versions of Peter Pan there are or were. J.M. Barrie, the author of the original book and play, rewrote it every year in his lifetime. There was a new production in London with new music every year for over 100 years. There was also a Broadway version before this one and this one had trouble before during and after its Broadway and TV version. It has constantly changed and many of the changes in this version were long overdue. There is already a volume of hate directed toward idiosyncratic film actor, Christopher Walken. His performance was incredibly well thought out and executed in his person style. He was incredibly realistic, justifying every line and injecting his own sense of humor and even improv. It was a very studied performance. His singing was no worse than. Cyril Ritchard or Boris Karloff, Ron Moody etc. may of them were over the top foppish cartoons. You may like that but you can't criticize a realistic approach as wrong. It is a very modern interpretation. Of course, many haters are just plain envious and think- if not them in the part-then no one. Such little minds, such big egos. Build a bridge folks and get over it. It's a TV show. People love kitsch and crap of many reality shows like Real Housewives or the Kardashians. I'll take a kitsch TV theatre performance over any housewife reality drek any day. Now to the rest of this Peter Pan, it was entertaining and as well done as possible. Higher tech soundstage scenery, some digital effects and high tech flying and multi cameras doing it live, while adding songs and rewriting a dated script was quite a challenge and I once again applaud NBC. The show was entertaining, the cast was delightful especially Walken's very unique performance. He was a parody of himself at times and delightful. The changes were mostly helpful but the cinematic efforts combined with the awkward commercials made the show drag but so did the original. I have seen the Mary Martin original on TV, Sandy Duncan, Cathy Rigby, Lulu in London( real English Panto style), a brilliant male Peter in Trevor Nunn's,  NT anniversary production and recent RSC radical reworking, Wendy and Peter, several community productions and this version was just as entertaining and superior on many levels. To all the "nothing is better than Broadway snobby haters", stop watching TV and film versions of shows, you can't learn to like "different" and you can't judge efforts in other media without bias. Oh, and please stay away from the  Disney  film version of Into the Woods opening on Christmas. You are going to hate it, we know you are so spare us your ire.