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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Will Allison Williams soar above Carrie Underwood?


    Courtesy of NBC

    Allison Williams as Peter Pan speaks to Taylor Louderman as Wendy Darling from the windowsill in a promo for NBC’s ʺPeter Pan Live!ʺ that will premiere on Thursday. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the producers behind last year’s ʺThe Sound of Music Live!,ʺ are also producing this performance for NBC.

    Allison Williams will have to overcome some pretty high expectations when she takes flight as Peter Pan in NBC’s live theatrical special “Peter Pan Live!,” as musical theater snobs are still recovering from Carrie Underwood’s lackluster turn as Maria Von Trapp from last year.

    The star of HBO’s “Girls” seems a little bit better cast than the country singer’s attempt to come off as an Austrian nun. With her boyish pixie cut, Williams seems to possess the charm, grit and might needed to portray the boy who never grows up.

    “I just hope that people know that I will take care of him as a character,” Williams said in an interview with NBC. The Yale University alumna has an extensive background in musical theater and has occasionally showcased her vocal talents as Marnie Michaels on “Girls,” but the 26-year-old actress said she’s never been in a production on this grand of a scale.

    When her casting was first announced, there was already talk on social media about “hate-watching” her performance. The way critics received Underwood’s performance the previous year may be to blame for this cynical skepticism.

    Brian Lowry of Vanity Fair wrote Underwood handled the “vocal chores more ably than the acting,” and that the musical generally “couldn’t make the story sing between the musical numbers.”

    Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times criticized Underwood as being an “amateur” and judged her acting chops as “lacking weight and substance.”

    But Williams seems better suited for her role as Peter Pan. The actress admitted to role-playing as Sir J.M. Barrie’s adolescent hero when she was a toddler, and owned a VHS copy of Mary Martin’s performance from the 1950s televised Broadway production. Martin’s Peter Pan not only won her a Tony award, but the production’s telecast on NBC drew in 65 million viewers.

    The modern television spectacle airing Thursday night is guaranteed to dazzle viewers with its colorful set designs and on-spot choreography. Hoping to draw in the nearly 19 million viewers who tuned into “The Sound of Music Live!” last December, NBC seems to be pulling out all the stops to make this production sing.

    NBC cast the Oscar-winning actor Christopher Walken as the villainous Captain Hook. Walken started out dancing in the chorus line of the 1963 Off-Broadway production of “Best Foot Forward” before venturing to Hollywood to play serious, sardonic roles in films such as “The Deer Hunter,” “Annie Hall” and “The Dead Zone.”

    “He is so deeply cool,” Williams commented on working with the 71-year-old acting veteran. “Even when he’s not doing anything, he’s better at acting than I’ve ever been.”

    Other cast members joining Williams and Walker are Minnie Driver as the grown-up Wendy Darling, Christian Borle of CBS’s “The Good Wife” as Mr. Darling and Kelli O’Hara as Mrs. Darling.

    As Williams soars into Neverland Thursday at 8 p.m., Twitter will undoubtedly become a sinkhole of critics waiting to jump any slight mishap — another reason why live theater belongs on a stage and not in someone’s living room.


    Follow Kevin C. Reagan on Twitter.

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