'Peter Pan Live!' stars Allison Williams, Christopher Walken and Christian Borle preview NBC's second big musical event.

The Peter Pan Live! Cast Talks Flying, Hate-Tweeting and Dressing in Drag

Peter Pan Live! Preview NBC

If your fingers are already itching to Twittersnark the heck out of tonight’s Peter Pan Live!, star Allison Williams can save you a lot of trouble and furious hashtagging: You’re going to loathe it.

Peter Pan you cannot watch cynically. If you do, you’re gonna hate it,” the Girls star says at a press event that takes place while the production is in rehearsals. “There’s no question. It falls apart instantly.”

But Williams thinks Peter, a little boy has the chutzpah to go up against Captain Hook, can easily dispatch with the kind of negative talk that dogged The Sound of Music Live! last year.

PHOTOS NBC Unveils Peter Pan Poster: Hook’d Yet?

“I have full faith that this will happen: People will hear the opening strains of music that they know deep, deep, deep in their heart, and it’ll just make them nostalgic and they’ll become a kid again,” she says, smiling. “They’ll crumble. They might get one hate-tweet out, just really quickly, and then we won’t hear from them for a while.”

As was widely reported when the Girls star landed the lead in NBC’s second huge musical event, Williams has dreamed of playing the eternal adolescent ever since she was a little girl. After months of learning how to be Peter, her enthusiasm remains high and her esteem for executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — who brought Sound of Music Live! to an audience of 18.6 million for its debut, nabbing a 4.6 in the demo — is even higher.

“I trust these people to do what they do,” she says. “They do this really well.”

Read on for more scoop on the television event from Williams and co-stars Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter), Christian Borle (Smash) and Broadway star Kelli O’Hara.

TRANSFORMATION IN MOTION | To go “from a very modern girl who has a lot of sex to an asexual, prepubescent British boy from the turn of the 20th century,” Williams says she started prepping for the part in late August. Training included lessons in swordfighting, singing, working Peter’s British dialect and — of course — “flying” via wires.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES | The night before NBC announced that Williams would play Peter, she called pal and Girls co-star Lena Dunham with the news. “She said, ‘It’s so subversive! You’re going to be in drag,'” Williams says, laughing. “It was just such a classic Lena reaction.” Meanwhile, Girls ‘Andrew Rannells was rehearsing for his Broadway run as the gender-bending lead in Hedwig and the Angry Inch around the same time Williams was learning how to become Peter. “I was like, ‘We’re switching genders!'” she says. “He was so fabulous as Hedwig, and I learned a lot by watching him.”

WILLIAMS WAS AMONG THE 18.6 MILLION | Williams “was completely blown away by” Sound of Music Live!, she says, remembering how impressed she was with the nunnery set, in particular. “And then I saw Carrie [Underwood] on the hillside, and I started to cry. It was very moving to me.”

FLY GIRL | Flitting around several feet off the ground looks easy but is actually quite tough, Williams says. “It’s hard to stay forward… The way you leave the ground determines the rest of your flight, which is a little intimidating.” Still: “The most fun thing in the world is the first time you go up.”

THE ROAR OF THE CROWD | Walken, who began his career on the stage, says the absence of live feedback has been an adjustment for him. “I always find the audience teaches you things. It shows you where the jokes are, for one thing… You can absolutely feel an audience, and you know when it’s going good.”

SONG-AND-DANCE MAN | Walken praises both his co-star’s vocal prowess — “Allison can really sing” — and the fact that Captain Hook isn’t required to belt. “There’s a lot of talking-singing, which is good for me,” he says, laughing.

MEET THE PARENTS | “I’m Mrs. Darling, and I’m so mad I’m not flying,” jokes O’Hara, who plays opposite Borle’s Mr. Darling. (Borle also plays Hook’s bumbling bo’sun Mr. Smee.) The actress says she’d leaned on her co-star, who was Max Detweiler in last year’s production, to give her tips on being in the mash-up of live theater and break-for-commercials TV. Related to his previous experience, Borle adds that he was surprised when other actors took to Twitter to mock The Sound of Music Live! “I just thought, don’t you ever want to work for NBC?” he says with a laugh.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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18 Comments
  1. Kelly Deeny says:

    I applaud NBC for bringing live musicals (ones loved by generations) to television. I enjoyed watching the Sound of Music last year and will be tuning in tonight for Peter Pan. Break a leg!!!

  2. AT says:

    I am so excited for Peter Pan!! And I’m excited to introduce my daughter to it as I remember watching the Mary Martin reruns when I was a child.

  3. Ceylan says:

    I feel like NBC could mend many broken hearts with a Bombshell Live, plus half of it was already choreographed.

  4. Ann says:

    I don’t think that the people taking to Twitter to snark about Peter Pan will be people snarking about the story. It will be musical theater people who are scrutinizing the production itself…

  5. Jenna says:

    I love the theater, and I’ve been anxious to,see this. Break a leg! And ignore the snark.

  6. Drew says:

    “It was just such a classic Lena reaction.”
    And then she went and raped her sister again… I find it amazing that this woman actually admits to some screwed up stuff that she did over the course of many, many years and the media doesn’t care. But Bill Cosby has what can only be called gossip and rumors spread about him (since there is no evidence to classify it as anything else at this point) and his career has already been burned. Not to say that it shouldn’t be if he did those things, but there should at least be some equal justice.
    All that aside, I may have strong issues with the casting, the wardrobe and the story changes made here, but I am going into tonight’s show looking to have a good time. I liked The Sound of Music last year and I hope to like tonight’s show.

  7. Tom says:

    My ONLY issue with it is this idea of sticking with “tradition” of having Peter played by a woman instead of, I don’t know, a teenaged boy. There are no 12-14 year old boys out there that can sing? But oh no, it’s “tradition” that it has to be done by a woman, because of old British labor laws. Once I get past that, I’m looking forward to it.

  8. NotSo says:

    While I love the story of peter pan, I have always hated the fact that the musical is performed by a woman. (and yes, I know all the child labor law reasons why this was done at the turn of the century). While peter’s age is never definitely established in the books, at least this time the role is being played by someone who is at least only a decade or so older –as opposed to the 40+ matrons such as mary martin or cathy rigby. That said, I AM glad to see live theater in any form and I will be watching. So props to NBC.

  9. joyce says:

    this version stinks i watched the original in black and white many years ago 100 times better than this watkins is so animated no cyril ritchard and peter is no mary martin she never ran out of breath when she sang amd the lost boys look 25

  10. joyce says:

    this version stinks . peter should have been a real boy with a teal voice that doesnt riun out of breath watkins is so stiff and animated he sure doesnt have the personna of cyril ritchard blavk and white version 100 percent better they should have aired it

  11. Kathleen says:

    This is such a lovely family musical with a fabulous cast and fantastic scenery. Our entire family is really enjoying this show. Thanks so very much for having putting this show on!

  12. robin says:

    It is a bit long and draggy in places.

  13. AJ Hoyt says:

    I wanted to like this, I did. I applaud the supporting cast. But Captain Hook was more stilted than scary and Peter Pan seems like a good singer with not enough acting experience to carry it off. It might get better, but alas, I’m heading to another channel….

  14. SamK161 says:

    As one who grew up with the Mary Martin version I have to say some was good & some bad. Allison’s voice was great, but many times drowned out by the music. Lost boys were way too old. Nana years ago was a person in a dog suit,Smee was was too young, Peter needed to learn how to crow better. As for flying, rigging was bad, I swear you saw less wires years ago in the black & white version & the Cathy Rigby one. Peter’s outfit was bad, those shoes threw the whole feel off, plus she really didn’t convience you to clap for Tink very hard. Must say I enjoyed Melissa Joan Hart’s commercials better than some of the show. All in all, it was a good try but I’ll still take Mary Martin’s version anytime. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor & find a copy. Cyril Richard, where are you now, I do miss you & Mary, who made me believe many, many years ago. Long live Peter Pan, Tinkerbelle & Neverland. Third star to the right & straight on till morning will always be the true road to follow

  15. Paul Craig says:

    The problem was that the musical is outdated. They should attempt a musical that is timeless and everyone can enjoy. That’s why Sound of Music did so well. This musical was originally designed for adults, and it came across that way. It was a truly marvelous effort, everyone did a tremendous job, but the musical itself should have been updated.