In 1954, Fred Coe, production manager for NBC in New York, began producing 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.
On March 7, 1955, NBC presented Peter Pan live as part of Producers' Showcase (with nearly all of 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, the highest ever up to that time for a single television program. 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 (again on Producers' Showcase) 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 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. Producers' Showcase had long since gone off the air, so the 1960 production was intended as a "stand alone" special instead of an episode of an anthology series. Act II was split into two acts, 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. Martin was also starring in Broadway's The Sound of Music at the time. The production was directed for television by Vincent J. Donehue, who received a Director's Guild Award for it. Peter Foy re-created the signature flying sequences he had staged for the 1954 Broadway production and the two Producers' Showcase broadcasts. This 1960 version was rebroadcast in 1963, 1966 and 1973. The video tape of that production was restored and rebroadcast by NBC on March 24, 1989, then again in 1990, after which it went to the Disney Channel, where it was shown several times more. Unfortunately, beginning in 1989, the program was slightly cut to make room for more commercial time. Eliminated completely was a dance that Liza (the Darling family maid) and the animals of Neverland perform to an orchestral version of Never Never Land. Also eliminated was Mary Martin's curtain speech at the end thanking NBC for making the program possible, which, in the 1960, 1963, and 1966 telecasts led directly into the closing credits. Gone also, strangely enough, was the intertitle bearing the credit Peter Pan: Act III, but not the other intertitle credits, so that the show seemed to be performed in three acts, just as in the stage version. The screen credit Peter Pan: Act IV, however, did remain, so that it seemed as if there had been a technical oversight in not changing it.
This 1960 production of Peter Pan was released on VHS home video on Aug 28, 1990 (not 1998, as stated on Amazon), on LV (date unknown), and on DVD on October 19, 1999.
None of the three Mary Martin television versions of Peter Pan was telecast from a theatre with a live audience. All three were performed in the NBC studios.
Read more about this topic: Peter Pan (1954 Musical)
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