Just two weeks ago, on December 4th, the world was treated to a new televised version of Peter Pan – LIVE! Frankly, Peter Pan was never one of my favorite musicals but I can’t help but smile knowing how many people tuned in to see a Broadway musical on their own TV set. According to official reports, 9.21 million people tuned in to see Allison Williams as Peter Pan and Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. On top of that 475,000 tweets were posted and seen by 106.9 million people. It’s crazy to think that in an average year about 12 million people take in a Broadway show. And yet, with Peter Pan LIVE! over 9 million people saw it IN ONE NIGHT... That’s a lot of talk about Broadway!!
As with the Sound of Music LIVE! starring Carrie Underwood last year there was a lot of “twitter-hating”. Viewers had very strong opinions about this beloved musical and weren’t afraid to take to social media to make those feelings known. Safely concealed by the anonymity of a computer, many comments and tweets were quite scathing. Having seen the fallout and reactions from The Sound of Music LIVE! last year many of the cast members, including Peter Pan herself, made sure to address the “twitter-hating” prior to the telecast.
Naturally there are going to be challenges along the way in pulling off such a large production. 46 cast members, over 350 crew members, dogs, children, and flying amount to a lot of possibilities for catastrophes, especially given the live nature. I would imagine one huge comfort to the creative team was that they had something from the past to reference: Peter Pan was originally aired on NBC in 1955, 1956 and 1960 starring Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard.
Last week I was walking through The Lincoln Center Library For The Performing Arts and I came across a small display case that caught my eye. Inside were assembled some of the original production notes from the 1955 and 1956 telecasts and the changes that were made to adapt it for TV from the original Broadway run. It provided a beautiful look at the minute details from those rehearsals over 50 years ago! The page that really caught my eye was a lyric sheet with red pencil markings on the right hand side. Looking closer I realized these were notes made by Vincent Donehue who directed the 1956 telecast. “Tiger - Too loud” and “Too many faces” were great indications of the technical differences between the stage and screen. In 50 years nothing has changed!
One other document they had on display was an original rehearsal schedule they utilized in the early stages of development prior to filming. My favorite note on that page was in a box at the bottom explaining why each fly rehearsal was only scheduled for a short time: “Flying men poop out after an hour or so rehearsing”. Thanks to the Lincoln Center Library and the generous donation of Leonard Bernstein’s papers we all get a glimpse into the details of the past and I can’t help but smile. If that’s not Broadway Up Close then I don’t know what is!
One of the various 46 cast members who comprised the ensemble of Peter Pan – LIVE! was an actress named Kathryn Terza who I worked with this past year on a production of Lysistrata Jones. I could tell from the first day of rehearsal how ridiculously talented she was, so it was no surprise to me to hear she had landed a part in the new NBC telecast this year. She can sing, she can dance, she can act and she’s hilarious! She’s a true triple threat! What part did she play in Peter Pan – LIVE!, you ask? Kathryn donned scales, a seashell bra and an octopus-shaped wig to transform into one of the mermaids inhabiting Neverland.
Below is a short interview with Kathryn exclusively for our BUC readers to get an even more “Up Close” look at the making of Peter Pan – LIVE! If you have any other questions for her leave them in the comments section below. Enjoy!
See you on the sidewalk!
Peter Pan Up Close With Kathryn Terza
BUC: What was your previous experience with Peter Pan? Ever seen it? Been in it?
KT: Peter Pan was my favorite musical growing up. I actually have a collection of all the versions of Peter Pan that have been done sitting in my bookcase. From Mary Martin, the cartoon, to the version done in 2003. I think it's like 5 or 6. I also have a bunch of different books as well. I always wanted to play Tiger Lily as well so it was awesome to understudy that role.
BUC: How was it different doing a musical for TV as opposed to onstage? Technical differences?
KT: It's definitely more difficult. Not only do you have a stage manager and assistant stage managers as you do in musical theater, but you also have the camera ones too. Not only do you have a director of the musical and his assistant, but you have the camera director and assistant as well. So, there are double the amount of people working because there is double the amount of work. What works on stage doesn't necessarily work for TV. You also have to worry about the different camera perspectives, unlike the stage. Combining the two worlds was definitely a lot of work.
BUC: How long was the rehearsal process and how intense was it?
KT: Most of the cast had two months: one in a rehearsal studio and one on set. I joined right before the second month. I had one day to learn the mermaid choreography in the studio, which was the last day before we went on set. From then on out, there was no time for me to be taught my understudy track. I had to video and learn all the choreography myself and be ready to step in for Tiger Lily at any moment when needed.
BUC: Just prior to the telecast what was the overall feel? Excitement? Nervousness?
KT: The excitement was palpable. There were some nerves that were discussed, but not seen at all! When the moment came, everyone really felt the reality that this was being aired LIVE on NATIONAL TELEVISION. You can't really experience that feeling unless you're going through it. Backstage there were tears of happiness throughout watching the whole show in the green room. We worked SO hard on this project. Every single person. It was magical.
BUC: How has it been dealing with all of the "Twitter-hating"?
KT: Well, I don't really tweet which I'm kind of happy about. Because I watched this project be completed first hand, I knew all of the cast, I knew all of the crew. I am so proud of everyone and how it turned out. I saw how hard everyone worked, and how much the cast grew. So even though I didn't see any twitter hating first hand, I did see an article that said 147,000 authors sent tweets about Peter Pan and was seen 106.9 million times which I think is a pretty awesome thing.
BUC: What was your favorite part of the experience?
KT: My favorite part of this whole experience was growing as a performer myself! The fact that they took the top broadway performers and put them with these amazing stars to do my favorite show as a kid gave me chills everyday! Getting to work with and watch one of my favorite director/choreographer and his ridiculously talented assistants at work was such a learning experience. I learned something new everyday. I was pushed in this job. Even though the mermaids had a small role, it was definitely the most difficult challenge I've had yet as a dancer (Doing difficult partnering while having your legs bound together so you can't move them all while in a small space with thick fog). Then, having to learn a role (Tiger Lily) all by myself. I feel like I can do anything now! Close second: Craft Services :)