NBC recently announced plans to follow the successful live broadcast of The Sound of Music with a live adaptation of the musical Peter Pan.
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.
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.
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.
American actress Maude Adams had her big break in the 1905 U.S. production, becoming the first actress to portray Pan on Broadway.
Throughout the 1920s, women continued to reprise the role on stages in London.
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.
At the age of seventeen, Betty Bronson was chosen to play the lead in the 1924 silent film version by Paramount Pictures.
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.
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.