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Peter Pan (1954 musical)

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cover of the original cast recording
cover of the original cast recording

Peter Pan is a musical adaptation of J. M. Barrie's 1904 play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up and Barrie's own novelization of it, Peter and Wendy. The music is mostly by Mark "Moose" Charlap, with additional music by Jule Styne, and most of the lyrics were written by Carolyn Leigh, with additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

The original 1954 Broadway production, starring Mary Martin as Peter and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook, earned Tony Awards for both stars. It was followed by NBC telecasts of it in 1955, 1956 and 1960 with the same stars.


Background and original Broadway production

Several versions of Peter Pan were mounted early in the 20th century. Early pantomime versions of Peter Pan played in Britain almost immediately after the original play premiered, with young women like Zena Dare playing Peter. In a nod to that tradition, the title character of Peter Pan in the musical has been played mostly by women, including Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, and Cathy Rigby, among others.

publicity photo of Mary Martin as Peter Pan
publicity photo of Mary Martin as Peter Pan

Producer Edwin Lester, founder and director of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, obtained the American rights to Peter Pan and adapted it as a play with music for Mary Martin. The show was not successful in its pre-Broadway West Coast tour, so director Jerome Robbins hired lyricists Comden and Green and composer Jule Styne to add more songs, including "Neverland," "Distant Melody" and several other fine numbers, turning the show into a full-scale musical. The musical, instead of using Barrie's original ending, in which Peter simply allowed Wendy and the other children to return home, includes an additional scene that Barrie had written later and titled An Afterthought. In this ending, Peter returns after many years to take Wendy back to Never Never Land for spring cleaning. He finds that he has been away so long that Wendy is now a married woman with a daughter. Despondent at first, he is delighted when Wendy's daughter Jane offers to be his new mother, and instead takes her with him.

The 1954 musical version of Peter Pan opened on October 20, 1954 at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York for a planned limited run of 152 performances. The show had been sold to NBC, which ensured that it was a financial success despite the limited run. It played its final performance on February 26, 1955. The revised score and Tony Award-winning performances by Martin and Ritchard made Peter Pan a success.[1]

The show opened in a busy Broadway season, competing with such notable shows as The Boy Friend, Fanny, Silk Stockings, and Damn Yankees. However, while still in tryouts in Los Angeles, a deal was made for the show to be broadcast on the NBC anthology series Producers' Showcase on March 7, 1955. The show closed so that it could be broadcast on television, although box office continued to be strong throughout the Broadway run.

Television productions

In 1954, Fred Coe, production manager for NBC in New York, began Producers' Showcase, a 90-minute anthology series that aired every fourth Monday for three seasons. One aim of the series was to broadcast expensive color spectaculars to promote the new color television system developed by NBC's parent company RCA.

Martin as Peter Pan on TV
Martin as Peter Pan on TV

On March 7, 1955, NBC presented Peter Pan live as part of Producers' Showcase (with the show's original cast) as the first full-length Broadway production on color TV. The show attracted a then-record audience of 65-million viewers. Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard had already won Tony Awards for their stage performances, and Martin won an Emmy Award for the television production. It was so well received that the musical was restaged live for television on January 9, 1956. Both of these broadcasts were produced live and in color, but only black-and-white kinescope recordings survive.

Peter Pan was restaged yet again on December 8, 1960, this time in a 100 minute version rather than 90 minutes (not counting the commercials), and with a slightly different cast because the original children had outgrown their roles. Martin was also starring in Broadway's The Sound of Music at the time. It was intended as a "stand alone" special event, instead of as an episode of an anthology series. Acts II and III were split into two segments each, for a total of five acts instead of three, to allow for more commercial breaks. This version was videotaped in color at NBC's Brooklyn studio. The production was directed for television by Vincent J. Donehue, who received a Director's Guild Award for it. This version was rebroadcast in 1963, 1966, and 1973. The video tape of that production was restored and rebroadcast by NBC in 1989. It was released on VHS home video in 1998, and on DVD in 1999.

Cast of major productions (1954–1960)

Character 1954 Broadway 1955 broadcast 1956 broadcast 1960 broadcast
Peter Pan Mary Martin Mary Martin Mary Martin Mary Martin
Captain Hook / Mr Darling Cyril Ritchard Cyril Ritchard Cyril Ritchard Cyril Ritchard
Mrs. Darling Margalo Gillmore Margalo Gillmore Margalo Gillmore Margalo Gillmore
Tiger Lily Sondra Lee Sondra Lee Sondra Lee Sondra Lee
Wendy Darling Kathleen Nolan Kathleen Nolan Kathleen Nolan Maureen Bailey
Michael Darling Joseph Stafford Tom Halloran Tom Halloran Kent Fletcher
John Darling Robert Harrington Robert Harrington Robert Harrington Joey Trent
Smee Joe E. Marks Joe E. Marks Joe E. Marks Joe E. Marks

Later revivals

The show was revived in 1979 on Broadway at theLunt-Fontanne Theatre, starring Sandy Duncan and George Rose, and ran for 554 performances. Duncan was nominated for the Best Actress Tony, and the show was nominated for Best Revival of a Musical.

A third Broadway production was mounted in 1990, originally at the Lunt-Fontanne, running for 45 performances. A return engagement opened 10 months later, this time at the Minskoff Theatre, running for an additional 48 performances. Both engagements starred former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby as Peter; the first co-starred Stephen Hanan and the second J. K. Simmons. The production was nominated for Best Revival of a Musical at the 1991 Tonys, and Rigby was nominated for Best Actress. Rigby returned in 1998 at the Marquis Theatre, with Paul Schoeffler co-starring. This production ran for 48 performances. A return engagement with the same stars opened in 1999 at the George Gershwin Theatre and ran for 166 performances. This engagement was nominated for the 1999 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical, and was shown on television in 2000.

Jack Noseworthy is reportedly the only male actor to have played Peter Pan on Broadway; he was an understudy in the revue Jerome Robbins' Broadway.

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron stated in 2007 that they were producing a film version of this script. No cast has been announced, but Zadan said, "Peter Pan will definitely be a woman. The tradition is for women to play that part. It was written for Mary Martin. The songs were written in a woman’s key".


Act I

The Darling Nursery

As Mr. and Mrs. Darling prepare for an evening out, two of their children, Wendy and John, play their parents. When Mrs. Darling comes in and sees Michael is left out, she gets him in the game and joins in with all of them ("1, 2, 3") while their nursemaid, the dog Nana, watches. Mr. Darling comes in to have his tie tied, and he questions using a dog as a nursemaid, but Mrs. Darling defends her. The previous week, while the children slept, Nana was surprised to see a boy in the room. Before she could catch him, he flew out the window. She did manage to catch his shadow, however, which Mrs. Darling has tucked away in a drawer. Nevertheless, Mr. Darling insists that Nana spend the night downstairs. Mrs. Darling and the children sing a lullaby ("Tender Shepherd").

The children fall asleep. A fairy, Tinker Bell, and Peter Pan fly in through the window. Tinker Bell shows Peter where his shadow is hidden. He tries to reattach it and starts to cry when he can't get it to stick. Wendy wakes up and asks, "Boy, why are you crying?" When he explains, she offers to sew his shadow to his foot. Peter is thrilled when his shadow is reattached ("I've Gotta Crow"). Peter tells Wendy about how he has lived a long time among the fairies, and how one of them dies every time a child says he or she doesn't believe in fairies. Peter tries to introduce Wendy to Tinkerbell (who accidentally got shut in the drawer when Peter found his shadow), but Tink is jealous and won't be polite. Wendy asks where he comes from, and Peter tells her of his island, called Neverland ("Never Never Land"). Peter says he sometimes came to Wendy's window to listen to her mother's stories and tells them to the Lost Boys, forgotten children who end up living in Neverland; Wendy says she'll tell him and the Lost Boys all the stories she knows, if Peter will let her bring Michael and John along, to which Peter agrees. Wendy wakes her brothers up, but suddenly Nana and the housemaid Liza come in, having heard noises. The children pretend to be asleep, while Peter and Tinker Bell hide. When Nana and Liza leave, Peter invites them all to Neverland, and promises to teach them to fly. They happily agree and ask Peter to show them. Peter happily launches himself into the air ("I'm Flying").

Peter covers the kids in fairy dust and tells them to "think lovely thoughts." Soon the children are flying just like Peter. ("I'm Flying - Reprise") Grabbing some belongings, the children follow Peter, but Michael doubles back when Liza comes into the room, giving her some of his fairy dust and telling her to come to Neverland with them. Peter and children fly through the night to Neverland.

Act II

Never Land

Peter's "Lost Boys" are standing outside their underground lair, wondering when he will return, when they hear Captain Hook and his pirates ("Pirate Song"). The boys hide; one of them runs into Noodler the pirate (with his hands on backwards) who chases him, but Hook stops him, trying to keep his men quiet, in fear of an Indian ambush. Hook sends his men to search for all the Boys, and tells Smee, his right-hand man, that he wants to kill Peter most of all, because Peter is the one who cut off his hand and threw it to a crocodile, which has developed a taste for Hook and follows him around, hoping to eat more of him, but luckily ate a clock that ticks and will alert Hook to its presence. Hook accidentally stumbles upon the entrance to the hideout, and summons Smee and his men to provide background music while he plans the Boys' demise ("Hook's Tango"), a rich cake with poisonous icing. Hook suddenly hears a loud tick-tock; the crocodile appears but Hook escapes (actually, Hook faints in Smee's arms and Smee drags the captain away). The pirates flee, and the Boys reappear, thinking they're safe. Suddenly, a group of "Indians" appears, led by Tiger Lily ("Indians"). They leave the Boys alone, and go on hunting the pirates.

However, Tootles accidentally bumps into an Indian who grabs him and tries to carry him off. The Boys and the Indians have a tug-of-war over Tootles, but everyone stops when the Boys see a strange bird in the sky, and Tootles fires an arrow (the Indians run away in fear). It isn't a bird; it's Wendy! Peter, Michael and John land to find the arrow lodged in her heart. She isn't dead, but she can't be moved into the hideout, so the Lost Boys build a house around her, hoping that she'll agree to be their mother ("Wendy"), to which, when she wakes up, she agrees. Hook plants the cake, but Wendy thinks it too rich; instead, she'll tell the Boys stories. Hook is infuriated that the Boys have found a mother. He plots to kidnap Wendy and the Boys, while Smee and the pirates play a "Tarantella". After the pirates leave for their ship, Liza arrives and does a ballet with the trees while Peter sleeps outside the house.<

A few days pass with everyone having adventures. One day in the forest, after Peter leads the Boys in their anthem ("I Won't Grow Up"), they almost run into the pirates, who arrive carrying Tiger Lily over their shoulders and tie her to a tree for the wolves. Peter throws his voice in mimicry of the Captain and convinces the men to let her go. Hook arrives and becomes enraged at the news of her release. He demands that the "spirit of the forest" speak to him, so Peter tricks them all to think he is Hook, and the real Hook is a codfish. The pirates abandon Hook, but Hook convinces the "spirit" to reveal its true identity. Peter obliges, disguising himself as a "beautiful lady" ("Oh, My Mysterious Lady"). Hook catches on and tries to ambush Peter (and the pirates rejoin), but the pirates are chased away by Tiger Lily and her Indians.

Back at the hideout, Tiger Lily and the Indians rush in, and are almost shot by the Boys, until Peter reveals the truce between them. They smoke a peace pipe and vow eternal friendship ("Ugg-a-Wugg"). Tiger Lily and her Indians leave to stand guard around the house above. Wendy asks Peter to sing the Boys a lullaby ("Distant Melody"). Michael and John want to return home, and Wendy admits to being homesick, too. The Boys wish they had parents, and Wendy offers hers to all of them. Everyone is excited about being adopted, except Peter, who says he won't go. Wendy tells him she'll come back once a year to do his spring cleaning.

The pirates attack and subdue the Indians. They give Peter a fake all-clear signal, so Peter sadly sends Wendy, her brothers, and the Lost Boys on their way. Before she leaves, Wendy sets out Peter's "medicine" for him to take before bed. As the they leave the underground house, each boy is gagged with a white cloth shoved into their mouth and carried over the shoulder of a pirate to Hook's ship, the Jolly Roger, where the Boys will be made to walk the plank, and Wendy will be forced to become the pirates' mother. Once the boys and Wendy are carried off, Hook sneaks into the lair and poisons Peter's medicine. Tinker Bell tells Peter of the ambush and tries to tell of the poison, but he waves her off as he prepares for a rescue. Desperate, she drinks the poison herself. Dying, she tells Peter that if every boy and girl who believes in fairies would clap their hands, she would live. Peter breaks the fourth wall and asks children of all ages to believe and clap their hands. They do, and Tinker Bell is saved. Peter grabs his sword and heads off to rescue Wendy and the Boys.


The Jolly Roger

Hook revels in his success as the pirates fight over the Boys' possessions while they tie up and gag the boys ("Hook's Waltz"). Hook breaks the fourth wall himself and tells how he hates that children are made to hate him and love Peter. As the plank is prepared, Hook hears the tick-tock of the crocodile and panics. It's actually Peter with a clock, and while Hook cowers, Peter and the Boys help the Indians, the animals and Liza onto the ship and hide. Peter hides in a closet and kills Bill Jukes and Cecco, two pirates Hook sends in (Hook calls Peter the "doodle-doo" as he still crows after killing the pirates). Hook almost sends Starkey in, but Starkey flings himself overboard, begging for mercy. The pirates then carry the Boys in, and the Boys pretend to be afraid as they are carried in. The pirates think the "doodle-doo" killed all the Boys. Hook believes the ship is now cursed, and everyone thinks Wendy is the source. The pirates push Wendy to the plank. Peter appears, and the Indians and animals attack, as well as the Boys who are alive and armed. The pirates are all defeated, and Peter challenges Hook to a duel to the death, and defeats him. Hook threatens to blow the ship with a bomb, but runs into the real crocodile (who Peter also brought on the ship). Peter catches the dropped bomb and tosses it in the sea after Hook slides down the plank (which is shaped like a slide) with the crocodile chasing behind him. Everyone sings Peter's praises ("I've Gotta Crow" (reprise)). Before the Darling children and everyone goes to London, Liza asks Peter to teach her to crow ("I Gotta Crow - 2nd reprise").

Back home, the Darlings sit by the nursery window night after night, hoping for their children to return. The children silently reappear and sing to their mother ("Tender Shepherd" reprise). Joyous over their return, the Darlings happily agree to adopt the Lost Boys ("We Will Grow Up"). Wendy prays to the window that Peter will return to her.

Years pass, and Peter comes to the nursery, surprising a much older Wendy, who no longer expected him. He wants her to come to Never Land for spring cleaning, but she tells him that she cannot - she has grown up; she is married and has a daughter of her own now, Jane. Peter begins to cry, and Wendy leaves the room at the sound of her husband's offstage voice. Jane awakes, and like her mother before her, asks, "Boy, why are you crying?" Peter introduces himself, but Jane knows all about him from her mother's stories. She has been waiting for him to come take her to Never Land and to learn to fly. Peter, now happy again, throws fairy dust on her, but as they are about to leave, Wendy tries to stop them, saying, "Oh, if only I could go with you!" In the most poignant moment of the show, Peter answers with a sad but understanding smile, "You can't. You see, Wendy, you're too grown up". And so, Wendy reluctantly lets Jane go, "just for spring cleaning." Her daughter and the "boy who refuses to grow up" fly off into the night. ("Finale: Never Never Land - Reprise")

Musical Numbers

The musical numbers in the original Broadway version were as follows:

Title Sung by Music Lyrics
"Overture" Jule Styne
Moose Charlap
"Tender Shepherd" Wendy, John, Michael, and Mrs. Darling Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"I've Gotta Crow" Peter Pan Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Never Never Land" Peter Pan Jule Styne Comden and Green
"I'm Flying" Peter Pan, Wendy, John, Michael Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Pirate Song" Captain Hook and Pirates Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Hook's Tango" Captain Hook and Pirates Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Indians" Tiger Lily and Indians Moose Charlap Moose Charlap
"Wendy" Peter Pan and Lost Boys Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Tarantella" Captain Hook and Pirates Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Never Never Land"
(instrumental reprise, no vocal)
(cut on many TV showings)
Danced by Liza and the Animals Jule Styne
arranged by Trude Rittman
"I Won't Grow Up" Peter Pan, Slightly, Curley, Twins and Lost Boys Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Oh, My Mysterious Lady" Peter Pan and Captain Hook Jule Styne Comden and Green
(sometimes cut)
Wendy and the Lost Boys Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Ugg-a-Wugg" Peter Pan, Tiger Lily, Children and Indians Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Distant Melody" Peter Pan Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Captain Hook's Waltz" Captain Hook and Pirates Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Reprise: I Gotta Crow" Peter Pan, Company Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Reprise: Tender Shepherd" Wendy, John and Michael Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"We Will Grow Up " The Darling Family, Lost Boys Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Finale: Never Never Land" Peter Pan Jule Styne Comden and Green


  • Peter Pan, a boy who does not want to grow up and who can fly
  • Tinker Bell, a fairy, represented only by a tiny flashing light. Her "dialogue" is only heard as tinkling music. She does not speak as we know it, and the other characters "translate" what she "says".

The Darling Family, both generations

  • Wendy Moira Angela Darling
  • John Darling, her brother
  • Michael Darling, their brother
  • Mr. George Darling, their father
  • Mrs. Mary Darling, their mother
  • Nana, the dog/nurse
  • Liza, the family's maid
  • Jane, Wendy's daughter

The Lost Boys of Neverland

  • Slightly Soiled, the most conceited
  • Tinker Bell, a fairy
  • Tootles, the shy one
  • Twin #1, Twin #2, Curley, Nibs

Tiger Lily, the princess of the Indian tribe

The Pirates

  • Captain Hook, Peter's nemesis
  • Smee, Hook's Irish comedic sidekick
  • Starkey, Bill Jukes, Cecco, Noodler, Mullins, Cookson, Alf Mason, Alsation Fogarty, Bollard, Albino, Quang Lee, Giant Pirate, Skylights

Awards and nominations

1954 production
  • Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical - Mary Martin WINNER
  • Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical - Cyril Ritchard WINNER
  • Tony Award for Best Stage Technician - Richard Rodda WINNER
1979 revival
  • Tony Award for Best Revival
  • Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical - Sandy Duncan
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical - Sandy Duncan
1990 revival
  • Tony Award for Best Revival
  • Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical - Cathy Rigby
1998 revival
  • Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical
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