There may have still been a few bruises, but it was all smiles on the opening night red carpet for Peter Pan Goes Wrong. It's the second Broadway show from Britain's Mischief, the company behind 2017's The Play That Goes Wrong. Previews for Peter Pan Goes Wrong began March 17, ahead of its official April 19 opening. Read the reviews here.
Several members of the cast, including its three writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, have been with the company for years and appeared in both Broadway outings as well as many of Mischief's other endeavors. But that doesn't make this opening night any less special. "This is a show that we first did 10 years ago. And so it feels like it's been an incredible journey. We've done so many different productions, and we've kept refining it over years and years. So it's amazing. It feels like a real culmination today to be opening on Broadway," says Shields.
In The Play That Goes Wrong, audiences met the students of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, who were putting on a British mystery play (think something by Agatha Christie). But, as the title suggests, things go wrong. Lines are forgotten, set pieces break, sound cues are missed. The drama club is back at the center of Peter Pan Goes Wrong, this time performing the beloved J.M. Barrie tale of the boy who never grows up and his adventures in Neverland with the Darling family and Captain Hook. Naturally, hijinks ensue.
Greg Tannahill, who plays Jonathan who plays Peter Pan (it's a play-within-a-play, remember), looks forward every night to his first reveal, "entering that scene through a window in a really, really graceful way...without getting a new bruise." Ah, yes...Peter Pan...flying...goes wrong. "Who doesn't love watching people and laughing at them in pain?" adds Tannahill.
The play is littered with slapstick comedy and pratfalls. Charlie Russell, who plays a version of Wendy in the show, admits she's covered in bruises—not all from the show itself. "The worst one I have is just from walking into my own bed. So I don't think I get to complain," she says.
For the next three weeks, Mischief has brought Tony winner Neil Patrick Harris on board to serve as the narrator for the show. He's had a bit of a learning curve adjusting to the play's bonkers brand of physical comedy. "I'm kind of blown away at how much attention has to be paid to detail. When you're watching comedy of a physical sort, with a lot of schtick, it often seems like it's easy. And it's really, really, really specific, down to like half a beat versus one beat. If you hold too long, you lose the energy. And if you jump too fast, you've missed the laugh," he says. "I have to be much more laser focused than I have been in a long time."
Below, Playbill has to admit that many things went wrong with our equipment during the Peter Pan Goes Wrong red carpet. But we want to thank Neil Patrick Harris and the cast of the show for being good sports about it.
Despite the jokes and pratfalls, the multi-layered show is as sincere as it is silly. "It's an underdog story about these group of nobodies who are trying to put on the show, and are so desperate for it to be successful," says Chris Leask, who plays Cornley's stage manager, Trevor (who may or may not at some point have to step into the show). "This Odd Squad coming together—when they do succeed, it is the most satisfying thing in the world."
Harris agrees: "It's actually a heartfelt, lovely show. It ends on a super nice note. They're actually telling the story of Peter Pan in a very interesting, sort of callback way. It does devolve into chaos, but also everyone leaves feeling very satisfied."
It seems many times in Broadway theatre culture, comedy is not considered as important drama. But Mischief thinks otherwise. "Sometimes people do think that the idea of comedy is silly, right? But actually, I think what you have here is people who are very serious about making you laugh. There's not an easy thing to do. It's not an easy thing to do a show that is consistently this funny, takes a lot of hard work. It's not just luck," says company member Harry Kershaw.
Or, more simply put by Shields, "If you don't don't like this kind of comedy, you're just a soulless husk and I feel sorry for you."
Take a look at the red carpet photos below, including former Broadway Peter Pans Cathy Rigby and Sandy Duncan, the company of Peter Pan Goes Wrong, and celebrity guests, including Christian Slater, BD Wong, and Christopher Sieber (who brought his own pirate's hook).
The Broadway bow of Peter Pan Goes Wrong features original U.K. cast members Henry Lewis as Robert, Jonathan Sayer as Dennis (beginning April 30), Henry Shields as Chris, Chris Leask as Trevor, Ellie Morris as Lucy, Charlie Russell as Sandra, Greg Tannahill as Jonathan, and Nancy Zamit as Annie. They are joined by Matthew Cavendish as Max, and Bianca Horn as Jill. The company is rounded out by Ryan Vincent Anderson, Stephen James Anthony, Fred Gray, and Brenann Stacker. Tony winner Neil Patrick Harris opens the show are the production's narrator, Francis, with his limited run to continue through April 30.
The play reunites the work's original creative team, led by director Adam Meggido and including scenic designer Simon Scullion, costume designer Roberto Surace, lighting designer Matt Haskins, sound designer Ella Wahlström, and co-composers Richard Baker and Rob Falconer. The Broadway bow is being produced by Kevin McCollum, Kenny Wax, Stage Presence, and Catherine Schreiber.