Last week’s live TV musical production proved once again that Peter Pan will never grow old for audiences, at least not where ratings are concerned. Thanks to Christopher Walken prancing around in a pirate costume and a pink parasol as Captain Hook, Allison Williams as Peter Pan surprising viewers with a smooth singing voice (and a mostly passable British accent), and Nana (Bowdie, a rescue dog from Utah) stealing every scene she was in, the network was able to help people mostly forget the kitschy, B-movie quality of last year’s NBC musical revival The Sound of Music with the stiff Carrie Underwood. Although Peter Pan did well in the ratings (although far below The Sound of Music’s historic numbers), the reviews were still relatively mixed, demonstrating that, when it comes to live musicals, everybody’s a critic.
NBC’s announcement of next year’s live musical, The Music Man, based off the classic 1957 Meredith Wilson songbook – already has some reviewers wondering how they’ll manage to pull off this complex show. Who can possibly play Harold Hill better than Robert Preston from the 1962 film? What about filling Shirley Jones’ shoes as Marian the librarian? Can they fit all seventy-six trombones on a single soundstage?
Of course, The Music Man is a relatively safe choice for NBC to make. They don’t have to worry as much about audiences expecting a new actor to overcome a true legend in their role or any politically incorrect situations or language. And while they don’t have to compete against any upcoming films or theatre debuts, NBC needs to hope viewers don’t remember the flat and uninspired remake ABC attempted in 2003 with Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Broderick.
Still, if I had anything to do with the casting decisions, there wouldn’t be trouble, not right here, not in this new River City. Here’s some of my more inspired ideas: