NBC’s Live Production Of “Peter Pan” Should Have A Female Lead

It has been tradition for a woman to play Peter on stage since, well forever. Suggestions? We got plenty!

1. NBC recently announced plans to follow the successful live broadcast of The Sound of Music with a live adaptation of the musical Peter Pan.

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This won’t be the first time NBC has televised the famous story based on J. M. Barrie’s mischievous character, Peter Pan. Following the original stage production in 1904 – and countless following that one – there have been a number of successful film and television versions.

“In the hopes that lightning strikes twice, we think we’ve landed on another great Broadway musical — which ironically also starred Mary Martin — that is a timeless classic for all audiences, young and old, who just never want to grow up,” said Robert Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment chairman. No casting decisions have been announced, though it is rumored that NBC is looking for a male lead.

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In nearly all stage productions of Peter Pan, the title character is played by a woman. Originally it was logistics that lead to a female playing the title character – English law prohibited children from being on stage in the evening. It has also been argued that an element incorporated into pantomime in the 1850s was the practice of cross-gendered roles. Soon, casting a woman as Peter became a well-honored tradition.

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In the book J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan In and Out of Time, Donna R. White and C. Anita Tarr explain, “There was never any question that Peter Pan would be played by an actress. All but one of the Lost Boys were also portrayed by women, as was one of Wendy’s younger brothers.”

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6. The very first person to originate the role on stage was Nina Boucicault in 1904, who also happened to be the sister of the show’s director.

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Pictured alongside Wendy (Hilda Trevelyan) in the first production.

(Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
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8. American actress Maude Adams had her big break in the 1905 U.S. production, becoming the first actress to portray Pan on Broadway.

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9. Throughout the 1920s, women continued to reprise the role on stages in London.

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British actress Zena Dare (left), who played one of the lost boys in the original production, took on the role of Peter many times. Dame Gladys Cooper (right), an English actress whose career spanned seven decades, is seen before a performance in 1923.

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10. At the age of seventeen, Betty Bronson was chosen to play the lead in the 1924 silent film version by Paramount Pictures.

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11. In a 1927 stage production, Jean Forbes-Robertson played a stunning Pan at the Gaiety Theater in London – a role that she would repeat annually during the Christmas season until 1935.

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12. The Scala Theater in London became known for its annual showing of Peter Pan.

One the left, British actress Pat Kirkwood prepares to play Peter in 1953. On the right, British actress Julia Lockwood (top) played Peter with Juliet Mills as Wendy in 1960.

Getty/Hulton Archive

Getty/Hulton Archive

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13. The original 1954 Broadway musical production, starring Mary Martin as Peter and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook, earned Tony Awards for both stars.

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14. The magic continued with NBC telecasts in 1955, 1956, and 1960 – reaching 65 million viewers.

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15. English actress Hayley Mills chopped off her locks to play the part in a 1969 production at the New Victoria Theatre in London.

Hulton Archive / Getty

Hulton Archive / Getty

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16. The 1976 musical adaptation was produced for television and starred Mia Farrow as Peter.

The program did not use the score written for the highly successful Mary Martin version – it featured 14 new songs.

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17. Sandy Duncan was nominated for a Tony Award in the 1980 broadway revival of Peter Pan.

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18. Cathy Rigby, a former gymnast, took the role of Peter on tour during the 90s.

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19. What leading lady could take us away to Never, Never, Land?

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20. Krysta Rodriguez

Jim Spellman / WireImage

Already a Broadway pro, she has that hint of mischief and rebellion needed to pull of Pan. If you don’t know her, now you know.

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21. Anne Hathaway

Jason Kempin / Getty Images for Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program

It’s more likely NBC will go with a big name actress and – hate her or love her – Hathaway has the pipes.

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22. Evan Rachel Wood

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Remember how wonderful she was in Across the Universe? Remind yourself.

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23. Miley Cyrus

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Chairman Robert Greenblatt jokingly suggested that he wanted Miley to play Peter. As long as she keeps the thrusting and tongue-wagging to a minimum, she would actually be a perfect Pan.

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24. Amanda Seyfried

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I don’t think anyone would complain if Seyfried added another musical to her repertoire. Her infectious smile and energy is tough to beat.

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25. Alecia Moore, aka Pink

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She can already fly!

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26. Who would you cast as Peter Pan?

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Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at
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