13 things you need to know about 'Peter Pan Live!'

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By Randee Dawn

Following months of anticipation, "Peter Pan Live!" took flight Thursday night on NBC. The musical extravaganza, starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken, provided a pixie-dust delight for audiences of all ages, but with any live show, questions were bound to emerge.

We've tackled some of those burning questions.

Why is Peter almost always played by a woman?
Looks like it's a mix of English law that then became a tradition. According to Andrew Birkin's "J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: the Real Story Behind Peter Pan," back when "Peter Pan" was first being staged, English laws said kids under 14 couldn't be onstage after 9 p.m. And you can't very well have a man playing the boy who never grew up, so a boyish woman was selected (Nina Boucicault, sister of the first staging's director, Dion Boucicault, was first). 

What other ladies have launched as Peter?
More than we can list here, but some of our favorites include Mary Martin (NBC aired a live broadcast of her Broadway show in 1955 to 65 million viewers), Cathy Rigby and Sandy Duncan. Here's a list of some of the other greats!

How did the show handle the use of Native Americans in the story?
While Peter's ally Tiger Lily is heroic, lines about "noble red skin" and invented words like "ugg-a-wugg" (and in the case of Disney's movie version, a whole song about "What Makes the Red Man Red") do not go over well with modern audiences. Instead, there was a new song called "True Blood Brothers" that was part of Thursday's show. And Tiger Lily? She was played by Alanna Saunders, whose paternal great-grandmother was Cherokee.

Is the flying equipment comfortable?
Are you kidding? Star Allison Williams visited TODAY and explained that she's gotten used to being sore from her flight harness, but it's not exactly easy. "You never stop feeling it," Williams said about her three months of training. "But it stops being something that you're constantly aware of."

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What real dog played Nana?
Not just one, but two poodle-mix pooches were be on hand (after all, everyone needs an understudy) to assume the duty of the Darling children's caretaker, Nana. The key acting canine is named Bowdie, a rescue dog from Utah. Traditionally, Nana has been played by a person in a dog suit, so this is a real innovation. Meet Bowdie here

Clearly, Allison Williams is her father's daughter!
This isn't so much a question as a revelation; a yearbook photo of her father, "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams was posted alongside one of his daughter as Pan, and the resemblance ended up being part of the Twitter conversation! Check it out:



Speaking of which, where was the intrepid anchor while his daughter was performing?
Lester Holt took over anchoring duties Thursday night, so that Williams could enjoy all of the live goodness. "We will be watching the broadcast — immediate family only — sequestered in an undisclosed location, close enough to the production as to burst through the stage door the moment the credits roll," he told TVNewser.

Wait, Christopher Walken (Captain Hook) can dance?
He sure can! Walken originally trained to be a musical theater dancer and has hoofed it more than once over the years. But prior to being Hook his most memorable dance role was probably in the 2003 video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice."

Please, I could totally see the wires when they were flying.
Use your imagination! Also, every time someone tweeted that insight, a fairy died.

Gee, Smee kind of looked familiar.
He should have: Actor Christian Borle did double-time as both Mr. Darling and Smee, the Captain's right-hook man.



Captain Hook has a first name!
It's James. So say it with us: "Hook, James Hook."

What happened right after it was over?
Thanks to T. Oliver Reid, who played Oliver Shreeks and an islander in the production, we can see one post-show moment for ourselves. He captured Williams coming backstage after it was over, teary-eyed and hugging co-star Kelli O'Hara (Mrs. Darling). We're tearing up just watching this clip!

Darn! I missed it/my DVR malfunctioned. How do I watch it now?
Right here! The whole production is now online for your enjoyment. You're welcome.

This story was originally published Dec. 4.

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