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Theatre / Peter Pan (1954)

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"And that's my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned
Just think of lovely things,
And your heart can fly on wings... forever!
In Never...Never... Land....!"
Peter Pan, "Never Never Land"

Peter Pan is a musical adaptation of the play of the same name, first produced in 1954. Most of the songs are by Mark "Moose" Charlap and Carolyn Leigh, with additional songs by Jule Styne and Comden and Green added during the out-of-town tryouts. The original production starred Mary Martin as Peter (the musical continues the tradition of cross-casting women as young boy Peter to this day) and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook.

It is not the only musical version of the story, but it is the version most people think of when they think of Peter Pan: The Musical. Its notability can be attributed to the fact that NBC aired live stagings of the play several times between 1955 and 1960, to excellent ratings. The 1960 production was released on VHS tape (and DVD since), making it the canonical version of the show. This would be the final live televised musical for more than half a century, until The Sound of Music in 2013. December 4, 2014 saw NBC televise yet another live performance of Peter Pan, with Allison Williams as Peter, and Christopher Walken as Captain Hook.

NBC finally finished releasing all four of their Peter Pan televisings on DVD and/or Blu-Raynote  by September 2015, through various studios. A 2000 taping of a live stage production, with Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan, has also seen VHS and DVD releases.

The 1954 play and its TV adaptations contain examples of:

  • Actor IS the Title Character: The 2000 TV broadcast was advertised as "Cathy Rigby IS Peter Pan". (She had first played the role in 1974, and continued doing it on and off, on Broadway and especially on tour, through 2015!)
  • Adaptational Name Change: In the 1998 version starring Cathy Rigby, Mrs. Darling's first name was changed from Mary to Sylvia, after her real-life counterpart Sylvia Llewelyn Davies.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The mermaids, save for a brief mention of "The Mermaid Lagoon". Their sequence before Hook has captured Tiger Lilly is replaced by the musical number, I Won't Grow Up.
    • In the books, there are sections of Neverland representing all four seasons, but in Peter Pan Live, there's no section of the island which represents winter.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: While certainly not the first, this is one of the better known musicals based off Peter Pan.
  • And You Were There: Carrying on the tradition from the original non-musical stage play, Captain Hook is usually played by the same actor as Mr Darling. In the 2014 NBC Live production, it's Smee and Mr Darling instead.
  • Anthropomorphic Animal: Nana the dog and the crocodile play a big role, and the 1960 taped version also features a kangaroo, bespectacled lion and ostrich-type bird that live in Neverland and befriend Peter and Liza.
  • Audience Monologue: Hook goes off into one in the middle of "Hook's Waltz" as he ponders over his own immortality as a villain and what effect it has, particularly how when playing games, kids will always want to be Peter Pan instead of him. He also mentions how can't break it to Smee that children actually find him lovable.
    Hook: That's where the canker g-naws! No! By-carbonate of soda, no!
  • Audience Participation: Clapping to save Tinker Bell. The 2014 TV adaptation accompanied this scene with a caption asking fans to Tweet #SaveTinkerbell.
  • Big Bad: Captain Hook.
  • Big Damn Heroes: While in the book the Never Bird saves Peter from drowning, in the musical Tiger Lily does.
  • Big Entrance: TV productions show Peter soaring into the Darling nursery as the shutters open themselves to let him in. Captain Hook gets this as he's preceded by a band of singing pirates (one of them playing a huge drum) while he's carried onstage on a litter.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Peter defeats Captain Hook and the Darlings return home, taking the Lost Boys with them who are then adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Darling. Wendy goes to the window calling out for Peter to remember to come back for her in the spring... flash forward to many years later when Peter does return only to find Wendy has grown up. They are both saddened until Peter meets her daughter, Jane, who has heard all about Peter from her mother's stories and wants to be Peter's mother. Peter is overjoyed and takes her to Neverland. Wendy begs him to take her too but they both know he can't. "You see Wendy, you're too grown up."
    • The 2014 TV adaptation changes this to Wendy telling Peter she can't, but that Jane can go, and that she hopes Jane has a daughter who will be able to befriend Peter, and that Jane's daughter will have a daughter to befriend Peter, and so on.
  • Broken Record: When Peter encourages the Darling children to think lovely thoughts, John talks about fishing, picnics, and sailing, while Wendy brings up hopscotch, summer, and flowers. Michael simply exclaims, "Candy!" repeatedly until Peter tells him, "Lovelier thoughts, Michael!", to which Michael responds, "Christmas!"
  • Call-and-Response Song:
    • "I Won't Grow Up"
    Peter: I won't grow up!
    Lost Boys: I won't grow up!
    Peter: I don't want to go to school!
    Lost Boys: I don't want to go to school!
    Peter: Just to learn to be a parrot—
    Lost Boys: Just to learn to be a parrot—
    Peter: And recite a silly rule!
    Lost Boys: And recite a silly rule!
    • The reprise of this, "We Will Grow Up" is the same, as are the reprises of "I Gotta Crow", the first of which doubles as a Crowd Song.
  • Chewing the Scenery: If there's something Hook is known for other than his infamous appendage, this would be it.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Tinker Bell. Wendy has shades of this also, as she starts tearing up at the thought of Peter finding another little girl and bringing her to Neverland after she leaves.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: In the third act it's revealed Mr. Darling has been living in Nana's doghouse as a form of self-punishment for chaining her up in the yard and allowing the children to fly away.
  • Counterpoint Duet and Distant Duet: NBC's 2014 version changed "Distant Melody" into one of these. In the stage musical, Peter sings it to the Lost Boys as a lullaby after Wendy asks if he knows any. In Peter Pan Live, Wendy sings the first portion the song instead; the second sees Mrs. Darling, who is sitting in the window waiting for her children to come back to her, joining in.
  • Crosscast Role: Peter, who has always been played by a girl starting from Mary Martin, to Sandy Duncan, to Cathy Rigby, to Allison Williams (among others). The Brazilian staging broke this tradition by having Mateus Ribeiro as the first man to portray Peter onstage on a titular basis; the only other time a man had portrayed the character was an understudy.
  • Crowd Song: "Ugg-a-Wugg". The 2014 TV adaptation changed it to "True Blood Brothers," replacing the nonsense "Native American" lyrics to those in an actual Native American dialect. They worked with a Native American representative to make sure nothing was offensive to Native Americans.
  • Damsel in Distress: Poor Wendy, poor Wendy...
  • Death Glare: In the 1960 TV version, a frustrated Hook gives an epic one to the camera after Wendy foils his poison cake plan without even knowing she did it.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: In Peter Pan Live, the Darling nursery is decorated for Christmas, but it has no bearing on the plot. Considering winter isn't represented in this adaptation's Neverland, it's especially weird.
  • Dirty Coward: Tiger Lily and her Indian tribe. Exaggerated during the Indian dance where at the end the slightest noise from the last Indian scares her and the entire group away, downplayed when she tells her tribe to run when they see the "Wendy bird" flying nearby ("Ancient Indian Proverb - When in doubt, RUN!!!!") and when she "volunteers" to keep watch for pirates after the party with the lost boys, and finally averted when she and the tribe return to save Peter and later help him fight the pirates on the ship.
  • Disguised in Drag: At one point Peter tricks Hook into thinking Peter is a lady ("It's a lady! It's a BEAUTIFUL lady!"), similar to Bugs Bunny dressing in drag to trick Elmer Fudd. Since Peter is supposed to be child, though, it would classify as Squick if it wasn't for the fact that Peter is always played by a woman.
  • Distant Duet: 2014's Peter Pan Live changed the (now-appropriately titled) "Distant Melody" to one of these. In the original, Peter Pan sings it as a lullaby at Wendy's request; in Live, Wendy sings one half of the song in Neverland, while Mrs. Darling, still waiting for her children to come home, sings the other.
  • Dying Declaration of Hate: Hook has one directed at Peter before falling to the croc.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: During Hook's Waltz, Hook refers to himself as "Mrs. Hook's Little Baby Boy".
  • Evil Is Hammy: Captain Hook to a T.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause the 2014 version during some of the nursery scenes, you can spot some of the actors rewarding Bowdie the dog with treats for performing tricks well as the first real dog to play Nana.
  • Generation Xerox: Wendy's daughter Jane, who greets Peter with the same first words her mother did and flies off with him the same way. In the 1960 telecast she even doubles as an Identical Daughter, since they're played by the same actress.
  • Growing Up Sucks: The whole message of "I Won't Grow Up".
  • Hook Hand: Guess who?
  • "I Am" Song/"I Am Great!" Song: "I Gotta Crow" for Peter, as he's bragging how great he is (Justified because he can fly and never grow old, even though it also shows how conceited he is). "Hook's Waltz" for Hook, though it's also a subversion of "The Villain Sucks" Song.
  • Large Ham: Required for most, if not all the roles in the musical.
  • Killed Off for Real: Captain Hook, though whether he was eaten by the crocodile or blown to bits by the bomb Peter threw overboard (or both) is anyone's guess. Averted for the pirates, because although they are stabbed or shot by Captain Hook throughout the play and a few are killed offstage by Peter when he hides aboard the Jolly Roger, a few moments later, the allegedly dead pirates always show up again for the next pirate crowd scene and even retain their names (at one point, we see Captain Hook accidentally shoot one while trying the old 'mirror over the shoulder' trick, and that one lays for just a few moments, then leaps up onscreen to rejoin the chorus in singing Captain Hook's praises!). We also never see what happens to them after the fight, as they are taken captive and forced to join in the reprise of "I've Gotta Crow" but are led offstage promptly afterwards.
  • Magical Land: Neverland, of course.
  • Mobile Shrubbery: Hook and the Pirates show up in this Paper-Thin Disguise to deliver a poisoned cake to the Lost Boys.
  • The Musical
  • Narrator All Along: Adult Wendy in the 2014 version, as portrayed by Minnie Driver.
  • Never Grew Up: Peter, of course. When he finally returns to take Wendy back to Neverland for spring cleaning, he is genuinely shocked and hurt to find that she grew up even after she promised she wouldn't. That all disappears however, when he finds Jane waiting for him...
  • Noble Savage: Tiger Lily. After Peter saves her from the pirates, she returns the favor by rescuing him with the help of her tribe (that somehow got hold of scooters) and they and the Lost Boys declare a truce.
  • Oblivious to Love: Peter's immaturity prevents him from seeing any woman as anything more than a mother figure. When Wendy asks how he feels about her, he tells her his love is that of a devoted son. Tiger Lily and Tinkerbell fare no better.
  • One-Woman Song: "Wendy", sung by Peter and the Lost Boys as they build Wendy's house and exclaim how wonderful it is that she'll be their mother.
  • Opening Ballet: "1,2,3."
  • Orchestral Version: "Never Never Land." It's something of a Leitmotif, as it plays for Peter and Wendy during some of the more emotional scenes (Peter telling Wendy to come to Neverland, Wendy and the Lost Boys saying goodbye to Peter, and Wendy calling out the window for Peter to not forget to return to her). It also serves as the music for the unfortunately often-cut ballet between Liza and Neverland's animal inhabitants once she arrives.
  • Our Acts Are Different: There were originally about five acts in the musical, then reduced to four. Later editions of the taped 1960 version cut out the title card for the third act but they didn't bother to change the one appearing before the final act, which still has an "IV" on it. Nowadays the events of the musical from the Jolly Roger to the finale comprise of the third and final act.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: Tinker Bell here is portrayed as a small light (or laser depending on the production) speaking in chimes and bells.
  • Out of Focus: The Darling children are technically the main characters, but when the story gets to Neverland, Wendy remains in focus while John and Michael become almost irrelevant, partly because they just get lumped in with the Lost Boys, who themselves are presented as a cookie-cutter ensemble.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: All the Darling children. The Lost Boys too, as they are dressed in their pajamas for the latter half of the second act and all of the third.
  • Parent Service: Tiger Lily usually functions as this.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The pirates and Hook use the classic Mobile Shrubbery disguise to deliver a poisoned cake to the Lost Boys and Peter. The boys discover the cake but fail to notice the clump of bushes that suddenly appeared along with it. After killing two of the pirates Peter pretends to be a part of the crew wearing only an eyepatch, bandana and cape.
  • Pirate: Captain Hook and his crew, of course.
  • Poison Is Evil: The evil Captain Hook poisons Peter's medicine from Wendy.
  • The Savage Indian: Subverted. Tiger Lily and her Indians hunt the ostrich, chase after the Lost Boys and fight the Pirates at one point, but the most harm they do to the Lost Boys is a literal tug o' war with one of them, they save Peter from the pirates by chasing them away with scooters, and run away screaming at the sight of the "Wendy bird".
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Notably pulled off by Tiger Lily and the Indians in the 1960 TV version when they catch sight of the "Wendy bird".
    Tiger Lily: Famous Indian Proverb: when in doubt... RUN!!!!!
  • Servile Snarker: Liza. She doesn't necessarily start out as this, but once Mr. Darling starts living in a dog kennel and riding it to work, well.
  • "Setting Off" Song: "I'm Flying" can count as this, as Peter is teaching the children how to fly and the last verses are him saying it's time to go off on their journey.
  • Sinister Tango Music: Hook's theme music of choice. He even personally selects the rhythm at one point.
  • Skewed Priorities: After Hook plants his poisoned cake in front of the Lost Boys' hideout, Wendy stops them from eating it right away not because it suddenly appeared on the ground but because she's already settled into her role as Team Mom and says the cake is far too rich for her "children" to eat.
  • Small Start, Big Finish: During the 2nd reprise of "I Gotta Crow", Peter teaches Liza how to crow, and she becomes more confident and louder as the song progresses. When Liza isn't featured in the show, it is usually replaced by Peter and Wendy breaking the fourth wall and teaching the kids in the audience to crow instead.
  • Smug Snake: Hook.
  • "Somewhere" Song: "Never Never Land".
  • Spontaneous Choreography: The Indians' dance number starts out as them hunting the Lost Boys but becomes this. The Pirates are tricked into this by Peter while chasing him during "Oh My Mysterious Lady" and play it straight during "Hook's Waltz".
  • Technicolor Toxin: Depending on the production, Peter's drink may turn a completely different color when Hook poisons it. Peter doesn't notice the change or believe Tinker Bell's claim that it is poisoned until she drinks it to save him.note 
  • Tsundere: Tinker Bell. She's not afraid to call Peter a "silly ass" but drinks poison to save him.
  • Villain Song: Hook has several - a tango and tarantella to help him devise a plan, and a grand waltz to revel in his premature victory.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: Subverted in "Hook's Waltz" as Hook and the pirates sings how despicable and unlovable he is and how much he loves it.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After crying out how it isn't fair that Peter beat him in their final duel, Hook brings out a bomb intending to take everyone onboard with him.
  • Walk the Plank: Or, how Paw Dugan referred to it in his review of the 1960 version, the "Water Slide of Doom".
  • Westminster Chimes: Quoted in "Tender Shepherd".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the end of Act One we see Michael give Liza some fairy dust just before he joins Peter and his siblings on the way to Neverland. Halfway through the second act we see Liza finally arrive in Neverland, engage in some dancing between some animals and sentient trees and watch Peter as he sleeps. After that we never see her again until she joins Peter, the Indians and animals for the fight aboard the Jolly Roger and then she returns home with the Darlings. What happened to her during that time?
  • When Trees Attack: Averted, and then subverted. In the 1960 taped production, the Lost Boys hide inside three trees from the Pirates and Indians and can move them about the stage, so we know they are fake. When Liza shows up, however, the trees welcome her to Neverland, bowing and dancing with her and even trading her featherduster for a bunch of balloons and a bouquet of flowers. By this time we've seen the boys enter Wendy's house but not leave, which means they could be alive after all but benevolent rather than evil.
  • You No Take Candle: The Indians get this treatment. Their introductory song and dance has such gems as "Ugga wugga meatball!" Another one of their songs is called "Ugg-a-Wug," where most of the lyrics consist of "Ugg-a-wugg", "Gugg-a-bluck", "Puff-a-wuff", "Boop a doop," and so on. The Indians' spoken dialogue isn't any better.
    Tiger Lily: We go up now. Keep guard. Watch for pirates.