If Allison Williams wanted to fly with an extra project as far-removed from “Girls” as possible – which she did – the title role in “Peter Pan Live!” is about as good as it gets.
The actress (and daughter of weeknight “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams) is on board as the network follows last year’s live staging of “The Sound of Music” with another beloved, family-oriented tale at 8 p.m. Thursday. Williams has strong casting around her – including Christopher Walken (as sinister Captain Hook), Minnie Driver and Broadway staples Kelli O’Hara and Christian Borle – but she knows how much of the challenge is on her shoulders.
“I’m on cloud nine,” the pleasant Williams maintains of being chosen by musical-producing veterans Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “It’s one of those things I know I’m happy about because I’m present for every second of it … and thankful for every second of it. Usually, you kind of check out of things like this just to save energy, but I’m so aware of how this time will fly by.”
Williams continues a tradition of female talents such as Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby playing the most famous resident of Neverland. “This is exactly what I had been waiting for,” she says. “I hadn’t taken a role in a movie yet, and I’ve been very selective. I have this incredible job as Marnie on ‘Girls,’ and the only way to do service to that is to take jobs that are in total juxtaposition. I’ve been waiting for some creative mind to look at me and see someone who’s the complete opposite of Marnie, and this happened.” (“Girls” returns to HBO on Jan. 11.)
“Peter Pan” was very much a part of Williams’ personal entertainment history long before she was cast in it, thanks in large part to watching the animated Disney version. “I knew that I would work my butt off tirelessly and obsessively,” she notes, “to realize this character who could not have meant more to me growing up.”
As much as she must handle in playing Peter Pan, especially on show night, Williams is quick to credit the many others helping her with the performance. She reports they include “people whose job it is to learn every dance, and they’re not even the choreographers. One of them is one of my best friends from college, and I was so surprised and delighted by that.
“Then there are the choreographers who are so wonderful and helpful, and my vocal coach, and the directors – Rob Ashford and Glenn Weiss – and Amanda Green of Comden and Green (the show’s original composers), and my physical trainer. I can’t even tell you how many people are working so hard on this.”