In the 1954 theatrical version of “Peter Pan,” the titular hero vows that he’ll never grow up. Come December 4, he will have to, because he’s the central figure in a live version of the play that NBC is hoping will draw big ratings.
Die-hards can get a sneak peek of NBC’s preparations this evening when the Peacock airs a making-of special at 8 p.m. The show, “The Making Of Peter Pan Live!” was put together by NBC News’ Peacock Productions unit, and gives viewers a sense of some of the time pressure and tension that are as much a part of setting up the show as the performances from Allison Williams as Peter Pan and Christopher Walken as Captain Hook.
Below, five things viewers will learn from the program, courtesy of Sharon Scott, Peacock Productions’ president and general manager:
*Mounting ‘Peter Pan’ in an age when amazing special effects are commonplace adds a new challenge for producers. With last year’s NBC production of ‘The Sound of Music,’ audiences wondered how the cast would sing and sound together and whether the new version would stand up to people’s memories of the original, said Scott. This time around, producers will be spotted working with behind-the-scenes technology as much as with the cast. “This is a little different. There’s a little twist on it. There’s a lot riding on the technology,” said Scott.
*Emulating the feeling of flight has gotten more complex, not less, as computers help govern the actors’ movements. “People used to do the whole thing with ropes,”explains Scott. The actors are still carried up over the stage, but their motions need to be more precise so that they can be coordinated with the movements others are making. “Allison has been pretty vocal: It’s scary,” noted Scott. “It’s kind of scary fo them to make a precise movement in a small space.”
*Tinkerbell will be portrayed by a point of light. “She can turn red when she’s angry or green when she’s jealous,” said Scott. Viewers of tonight’s program will see a technician behind the scenes using a keyboard to move “Tinkerbell” around.
*Allison Williams has a personal history with the play. The documentary will reveal that the actress as a young girl would enjoy acting out “Peter Pan,” said Scott, even showing an old picture of Williams in a Peter Pan hat and green suit.
*There’s nothing certain about the success of the production. Tonight’s special will reveal a fair amount of anxiety inherent in the show, said Scott. “They have to make it perfect in ‘x’ amount of days. They get one shot live and there are no do-overs,” she noted. “There are some ‘Sound of Music’ veterans, but not very many. There’s a lot of tension there as far as pulling it off.” The documentary will follow the cast and crew as they get to know each other and learn their roles, but leave viewers wondering if what the cast has accomplished will hold as they move from a practice set to the Long Island studio from which the program will be broadcast.