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Even after Carrie Underwood was panned by critics and torn apart by Twitter users for her lead role in NBC’s Sound of Music Live! last year, Allison Williams still isn’t afraid to front Peter Pan Live!.
“My instant reaction was, ‘Of course I’d do this, of course, of course — am I kidding myself? This is a dream,’ ” she told reporters of being offered the role in the live televised musical. “I know that I’m type-A enough to learn all of these skills, and then forget to be type-A in the performance of them. … [People] don’t know what a hard worker I am, they don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this.”
So ready, in fact, that she’s ready to soar — Williams will have to hit the high notes while occasionally flying during the live broadcast, which drew nearly 22 million viewers last year in live-plus-7 returns for Sound of Music Live!.
“The flying is like your DNA, your little stamp on it! That’s how you make your mark, a cool new move,” she said of the beloved stunt work that comes with playing the J.M. Barrie-created character. “It’s hard to stay forward. It’s one of those things where the way you leave the ground determines the rest of your flight, which is a little intimidating. It’s a lot of pressure! If you’re slightly dragging one of your feet, you’re just going to turn around; if you happen to jump a little bit, the cable will bounce and it’ll look weird. The temptation — mine was, at least in the beginning — is to jump into a flight, because that’s what it feels like it should look. What you need to learn is to squat, like you’re getting ready to jump, and then let the cables be the rest of your jump.”
Alongside Christopher Walken, Kelli O’Hara, Christian Borle and Minnie Driver, Williams leads the new take on the 1954 Broadway production of Peter Pan that starred Tony winner Mary Martin, whom the Girls actress admitted obsessively watching during her childhood. Before a recent roundtable with reporters, Williams appeared on Today with Sandy Duncan (who led a Broadway revival of Peter Pan in 1979) and Cathy Rigby McCoy (who has played the role on and off since 1974).
“I asked them a hundred-thousand questions!” Williams said. Besides collecting tips on breath control, flying and keeping the Lost Boys on their toes, Williams said the two told her, ” ‘I wish you could have kids in the audience, because kids are so vocal. … Come have kids at the dress rehearsal, and then just channel their voices [during the live show].’ … The one thing they did say to me, which was something I knew already but was kind of a bummer to hear confirmed, is that this was the highlight of their career. So I was like cool, OK — [I’m] 26, that feels like a good time to be on top!”
Williams also received help from her fellow Girls co-star and Book of Mormon breakout Andrew Rannells, who coincidentally began rehearsals for his turn in Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch when she was training for Peter Pan. “I was like, ‘We’re switching genders! … Let me know if you need any girl tips!” she said with a laugh. “Plus he knows everyone — he has Broadway wired!”
As for what Girls writer-star Lena Dunham thought about Williams sporting a pixie cut on TV, Williams said she told her the night before it was announced, and Lena said, ” ‘It’s so subversive — you’re going to be in drag!’ Classic Lena.”
Peter Pan Live! airs Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
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