There are two acclaimed productions of the Broadway musical Peter Pan that most people today are aware of. (i'm speaking specifically of the show that has a score by Charlap-Leigh, with additional songs by Styne, Comden & Green. There have been other adaptations, but this is significantly the best known.)
Far and away, the granddaddy of all productions is of course the one in 1954 starring Mary Martin, who created the role and made it iconic through the show's annual appearance on television with repeats through the decades. The other is Cathy Rigby's 1990 version, which she performed for a remarkable 23 years.
In between these, however, there was another production that ran on Broadway and toured the country, to much acclaim at the time, though its little remembered in comparison. In part, perhaps, because unlike the other two it never had a TV production. And that's a 1979 production that starred Sandy Duncan. I saw that version in Los Angeles, and it was a joy -- and she was terrific. This probably comes as a surprise to many, since Duncan had a sort of reputation as an appealing, but very light performer, almost saccharine, thanks to her sitcom work and Wheat Thin commercials, among others. In fact, she's had a long career with some very solid work.
Including Peter Pan.
And here is a great clip from the show. It's the classic "I'm Flying" number -- indeed the complete version which includes my favorite part, often cut out of clips, of the Aerial Ballet. That's when Peter and the Darling children fly out of the bedroom and soar across the sky to Neverland. (It also includes one of the magical surprises of some stagings of the show, when Peter not only flies back and forth, but also -- after readjusting the wiring -- out into the audience. If you've ever seen the show live when that happens, you'll know what a thrilling theatrical moment this is, when Peter flies over your head.)
This video appeared as a segment on NBC's Ombnibus program. And what I love about it, making it one of the best clips of the song, is that it was recorded live during a production, so you get the reaction of the children in the audience. Most clips done live are from awards shows, so though there is an audience, it's almost entirely adults. And if you don't think there's a difference...just watch this clip, and revel at the peals of utter joy and wide-eyed faces of delight, applauding and ooooing throughout, bouncing in their seats. Seeing Peter Pan with the reaction of children is the only way to fly. (Pun intended.) In fact, if you've watched the movie Finding Neverland about the creation of the show, you'll recall that J.M. Barrie specifically recruited children to attend the show's premiere performance.
So, here then is Sandy Ducan, live in performance, showing why she was so good.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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