BWW CD Reviews: PETER PAN LIVE! (Original Soundtrack of the NBC Television Event) Is Full of Pizzazz and Adventure

Cover art courtesy of Broadway Records.

To be perfectly candid, I found NBC's presentation of PETER PAN LIVE! to be completely unwatchable this past holiday season. However, my review copy of the soundtrack CD landed in my mailbox yesterday. I was hesitant to spin the disc, but the recording is making me rethink my abandoning the film in the middle of "Hook's Tango." Ultimately, Broadway Records' PETER PAN LIVE! (Original Soundtrack of the NBC Television Event) is nicely entertaining and quite charming.

First and foremost, Musical Director and Conductor David Chase does an excellent job bringing this classic score by Morris "Moose" Charlap, featuring additional music by Carolyn Leigh, to life. The orchestra plays with thrilling clarity and pizzazz, creating a sound that is alive with adventure. Likewise, he has worked with the cast to ensure that they land not only their pitches but the emotions of the songs well.

Until Allison Williams appeared on my TV in the titular role, I had only seen Mary Martin on VHS and Cathy Rigby in multiple performances across the years in as the iconic Peter Pan. While I tuned out early, it wasn't because of Allison Williams. She recreates the role and fashions it into something new and unique to her, not simply doing what others before her have done. Albeit, I wasn't blown away by her attempts at being boyish, I did find her vocals to endearing. It was clear she had rehearsed and most importantly was having a ton of fun. The album captures this, and her performances of numbers like "I Gotta Crow," "I'm Flying," and their reprises are full of energy. Likewise, she sings tunes like "Never Never Land" and "When I Went Home" with an appealing softness. Simply put, Allison Williams holds her own against the Broadway stars that surround her.

With a background in dancing that most were unaware of, Christopher Walken as Captain Hook surprised many with his performance. For me, he was one of the reasons I couldn't get into the live broadcast. His Captain Hook, while dancing well, was neither eccentric enough nor menacing enough for my tastes. This also comes across on the album. His talking in rhythm vocalizations on numbers like "Vengeance," "Hook's Tango," "Hook's Tarantella," and "Hook's Waltz" don't send chills up my spine or make me giggle. I find myself completely unmoved by his performance, wishing he either inspired fear or had me laughing at his devastating peculiarity.

Packed with Broadway talent, the album does offer many standout moments. Taylor Louderman's vocals are absolutely gorgeous on the new song "Only Pretend." The always stunning Kelli O'Hara fills numbers like "Tender Shepherd" and "Only Pretend (reprise)/Tender Shepherd (reprise)" with her radiant and beautiful instrument, making them entirely unforgettable. Likewise, Taylor Louderman and Kelli O'Hara's duet on "Distant Melody" is a lushly velveteen and resplendent moment on the album. Additionally, Alanna Saunders' lively vocals as Tiger Lily on "True Blood Brothers" (the number that replaces "Ugg-A-Wugg" in this production) are a nice addition. Christian Borle as both Mr. Darling and Smee makes the most of his brief moments and is truly memorable for all the right reasons.

Personally, I feel that Broadway Records' release of PETER PAN LIVE! (Original Soundtrack of the NBC Television Event) is better than the broadcast itself. However, I also really adore what NBC has done with both PETER PAN and SOUND OF MUSIC. I think of all the people in Mid-America who don't have as much access to theater as I do gathering around their TV to see these musicals broadcast into their living rooms, and I am completely overjoyed. Hopefully, some children and adults are discovering a love for the medium of musicals and will forever cherish these live broadcasts. Lastly, whether you're a fan of PETER PAN or not, I'd suggest this album as it is definitely the most complete recording of the score to date.

Broadway Records released PETER PAN LIVE! (Original Soundtrack of the NBC Television Event) both digitally and physically on December 16, 2014. The record can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.

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From This Author David Clarke