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NBC's next musical: 'Peter Pan'

Cathy Rigby flies in "Peter Pan." Casting for

(Credit: Craig Schwartz)

And let the theater-buff debates begin: NBC has chosen "Peter Pan" is its next musical, for broadcast Dec. 4 of this year. Of course, this becomes the sequel — so to speak — to NBC's spectacular success with "The Sound of Music" this past December, starring Carrie Underwood.

Casting was not announced Sunday for this production — nor was venue, although NBC certainly appeared to have a good experience with the Grumman Studios in Bethpage.  I'm told no decision yet on venue but that Grumman is under consideration.

Cathy Rigby, above, made this role hers in more recent years — in fact, it's kind of hard to think of anyone BUT Rigby in the role (Sandy Duncan! Sorry, Sandy Duncan fans...) -- but there is certainly no indication that NBC has settled on anyone for the lead at this point. Mary Martin made this an iconic role on Broadway nearly 60 years ago. I've posted some clips below with Rigby, thanks to the web, which has preserved her performance. Rigby was superb, and always will be. (Her first Broadway Pan role, reprised a number of times since, was in 1990, but I think she first played Peter way back in early '70s.) Posted below check out some of Rigby's performance, to jog memories. And the great Mary Martin . . .


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"Peter Pan" had a brief Broadway run back in the mid-50s with Mary Martin and features some reasonably iconic songs by Mark “Moose” Charlap and Carolyn Lee, with additional material by Jule Styne,  Betty Comden and Adolph Green. (Styne's "Never Never Land" is an enduring Broadway musical classic...) "Pan" is perhaps not as well-known as "The Sound of Music," which of course had the benefit of Robert Wise's wonderful big screen adaptation to reach a multigenerational audience over the decades. It is still a wonder of the stage with some beautiful music. This should be a winner for NBC too — though how much a winner will depend on the casting of Peter.

"Pan" features, most notably, the airborne performance of the star which poses certain risks and rewards, neither of which need to be elaborated upon here.

Notes and quotes from NBC who are returning to Oscar showrunners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron for this one:

"We’re thrilled to be reteaming with NBC and [NBC Entertainment chief] Bob Greenblatt in bringing ‘Peter Pan’ back to its roots as a live television event,” said Zadan and Meron. “We hope to create the joy that has made this musical so beloved. We would like a whole new generation to experience ‘Peter Pan’ and for families across the country to share the magic."

The original Broadway production of “Peter Pan,” directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and featuring the iconic songs “I’m Flying,” “I’ve Gotta Crow,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Never Never Land,” opened on Broadway in 1954. The show had a book by J.M. Barrie and a score by Mark “Moose” Charlap & Carolyn Lee, with additional songs by Jule Styne & Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It starred Mary Martin as Peter and Cyril Richard as Captain Hook, both of whom won Tony Awards for their performances.

Moreover, this production aired live on NBC all those years ago, so consider this initiative something of a return to the Golden Age of television when anything seemed possible, even the live telecast of a Broadway musical . . .

Here's what NBC had to say about that:

Though business was strong, the show closed in 1955 to make way for the live broadcast on NBC, with an audience of 65 million viewers — the highest rating for a single night program at the time. NBC later broadcast the show live again in 1956 and 1960, all to strong ratings. It was also the first broadcast of a musical in color. None of NBC’s telecasts took place in a theater in front of a live audience; they all were broadcast from NBC studios.

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