Peter Pan got bad press in the ’80s, becoming a catchphrase to abuse perfectly responsible males who happen to like bachelorhood. But now it’s 1990, and Peter Pan is back. The 1953 Disney cartoon version is due later this month, and this week we’ve got Jerome Robbins’ 1950s Broadway musical version, restaged on NBC-TV in 1960. Goodtimes Video has slyly packaged the classic with a cover resembling Disney art, but don’t be confused: This is a splendid relic of the golden age of television.
Mary Martin is incomparably flighty as the boy who sings (quite reasonably), ”I don’t wanna grow up/I don’t wanna wear a tie/And a serious expression/In the middle of July.” And after all these years, it’s still rather titillating to watch a woman impersonating a boy who at one point impersonates a woman. But the finest performer is Cyril Ritchard as ”slimy, swiney” Captain Hook.
The amusing show tunes have worn well, and it’s refreshing to hear words like ”Brimstone and gall! What calumny is here?” in TV programming fit for kids. The only weak spots are the numbers featuring Tiger Lily and her Indian Braves, whose tom-tom tunes resemble those of the ’80s band Bananarama.
Some kids may complain about the stagy nature of the special effects — yes, you can see the wires — but, for them and their parents alike, the spell eventually takes hold. There’s nothing like real people treading an actual stage in real time to take you off to Never-Never Land. A-