When Casting Gets It Really Right
This December, NBC is once again putting on a live musical following its success last year with The Sound of Music. This year they will (again) be putting on Peter Pan. Some casting has just been announced.
To be clear, this isn't the main casting news that will back the production of Peter Pan -- which is of course the role of 'Peter.' But...it's still important. And brilliant. It's for the role of 'Captain Hook."
And the person they cast was -- Christopher Walken.
Now, forgetting even if you knew whether or not Christopher Walken could sing, doesn't this leap out to you as... brilliant?! Well, the fact is that not only can Christopher Walken sing (and wonderfully dance), but he got his start on Broadway, in musicals. He was known in his early days as Ronnie Walken, but it's the same guy.
Walken was in the ensemble of the musical, High Spirits, based on Noel Coward's play Blithe Spirit, and even had a small character role in the musical, Baker Street, based on Sherlock Holmes. But it's not even that Walken once-upon-a-time appeared in Broadway musicals. He was in the musical, James Joyce's The Dead, in 2000, and got a Tony nomination.
So...Christopher Walken as 'Captain Hook' in the upcoming live production of Peter Pan is brilliant. Just freaking brilliant.
Great start. Now, on to casting ''Peter.'
And here's some evidence of the good fellow singing.
This comes from a 1988 PBS special saluting George Gershwin, as Walken sings, "They Can't Take That Away from Me."
(By the way, at the piano and conducting -- more than a bit too over-the-top -- is the great multi-Oscar-winning composer and arranger John Green, who I had a joy of spending some time with several times. The first, when he conducted the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Music Festival, and I was assigned to take him around town for interviews. And then, he invited me to visit his house and go out to lunch, when he found out that I was going to UCLA for graduate school. We stayed in touch a bit, and he was a great gentleman, always with a carnation in his lapel. So, it's a treat for me to see him here, even if a bit more goofy than his normal elegance would allow. But then, he always was a showman.)
But the point here, of course, is Christopher Walken -- at one point, "Ronnie" -- singing.
Okay, that was singing. At this point, I think, it's reasonably well-known that Christopher Walken can dance. That leaped to prominence in his tremendous performance in the music video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice." Here's that video. No singing, it sure does show his musical theater roots.
If you haven't seen it -- do watch. Really. It starts slow, but...just watch. Really.
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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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