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19 Things You Might Not Know About Peter Pan the Musical

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What’s the way to Neverland? Second to the right, and straight on ’til morning! Or, turn to NBC. Since 1955, the network has broadcast the Broadway musical version of J. M. Barrie’s story about the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up to the delight of children (and children-at-heart) across the nation. Before tuning in to the latest iteration of the musical, starring Allison Williams (Girls) and Christopher Walken (come on) tonight, arm yourself with these 19 little-known facts about the show.

1. The curtain rose on the first Broadway version of Peter Pan in 1905.

Nina Boucicault (Peter Pan) and Hilda Trevelyan (Wendy) in the original 1904 production. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

J. M. Barrie first wrote Peter Pan; or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up, for the stage in 1904. It premiered at the Duke of York's Theatre on December 27, 1904, and ran for 145 performances. While it continued to run in London (and would for decades), the show opened on the Great White Way the following year. While today we most often think of Peter Pan as a book, Barrie wouldn't write a novelization of his story until 1911; he called it Peter and Wendy.

2. Maude Adams was Broadway’s first Peter.

According to Slate, famed theater producer Charles Frohman—he also produced the New York premiere of The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895—insisted that Barrie cast his protégé, Maude Adams, in the title role. While another woman, Nina Boucicault, debuted as Peter in London in 1904 (Adams wasn’t available until the following summer), it was Frohman’s suggestion to cast a woman as Peter that led to the gender-bending casting tradition. Frohman reasoned that a man wouldn’t be able to convincingly play Peter (a young boy), but casting a real boy was out of the question since English law prohibited the appearance of minors onstage after 9:00 p.m.

3. The musical version we know and love today—and which NBC will Broadcast live tonight—made its Broadway debut in 1954.

According to Playbill, Peter Pan first appeared on Broadway in 1950. But because it only had five songs (written by Leonard Bernstein), it was more of a play with musical numbers than an actual musical. The first full-length musical production opened in 1954. It was directed by Jerome Robbins and starred Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Australian actor Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook. While Robbins helmed productions of On the Town, The King and I, The Pajama Game, Gypsy, and Fiddler on the Roof, as well as choreographed for the New York City Ballet (of which he later became ballet master), he’s most well-known for conceiving, choreographing, and directing West Side Story

4. Robbins brought in the big guns to spruce up the musical.

Most of the Peter Pan music was written by Mark “Moose” Charlap, with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh. But, after the show flopped in a pre-Broadway West Coast tour, Robbins enlisted the help of composer Jule Styne and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green to beef up the score. They’re responsible for some of the play’s most memorable songs, including "Neverland," "Wendy," "Oh, My Mysterious Lady," "Ugg-a-wugg," "Distant Melody,” and "Captain Hook's Waltz."

5. Pan lyricists Comden and Green worked together longer than any other Broadway writing team in history. 

Adolph Green and Betty Comden in 2001. (Gabe Palacio / Getty Images)

Betty Comden and Adolph Green met in 1938 in New York City and soon after, with Judy Tuvim (who would later change her name to Judy Holliday), Alvin Hammer, and John Frank, formed the performing group The Revuers. They would perform satirical song and dance shows at the Greenwich Village nightclub The Village Vanguard. In 1944, Comden and Green joined forces with Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins to create On the Town. The rest, as they say, is history. The duo would go on to pen dozens of Broadway shows and movie musicals in Hollywood, including 1952’s Singing in the Rain

In 1980, Comden and Green were named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 1991, they received Kennedy Center Honors.

6. Jule Styne wrote a classic Christmas carol. 

Legendary composer Jule Styne not only lent his talents to Peter Pan and created some of Hollywood’s and Broadway’s most enduring tunes (including songs for Gypsy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Funny Girl), he earned a spot in the Christmas canon. Styne wrote “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” in 1945.

7. Only one man has ever played Peter Pan in Robbins’ version of the show.

And he only sang one number. Originally an understudy, Jack Noseworthy flew as Peter in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, an anthology tribute to Robbins’ work, in 1989 when Charlotte d’Amboise, the principal Peter Pan, was unable to take the stage. 

Of course, Peter Pan has been played by male actors in other stage productions, most notably the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Wendy and Peter Pan and Peter and the Starcatcher

8. Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard both won Tonys for their roles in the 1954 Broadway production. 

Sadly, The Pajama Game—directed by George Abbott and Jerome Robbins and choreographed by Bob Fosse—was named Best Musical over Peter Pan that year. Martin would also win an Emmy for her portrayal of Peter in NBC’s 1955 live broadcast of the show—but more on that in a bit.

9. Cyril Ritchard was not only a pirate, but an elf. 

He provided the voice for Elrond in the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit. 

10. The 1954 Broadway production was a family affair for Mary Martin. 

Martin’s daughter, Heller Halliday, played the role of Liza the maid in the original Broadway production and in the 1955 NBC broadcast

11. NBC cut the original Broadway production of Robbins’ Peter Pan short in order to broadcast a live version of the show.

The original 1954 musical version of Peter Pan ran for 152 performances at the Winter Garden Theatre. This was much shorter than expected. According to Playbill, NBC paid to close the production early and re-tool the show for a live television broadcast.

12. Peter Pan was the first full-length Broadway production to air on color TV.

On March 7, 1955, NBC brought Peter Pan into the homes of millions of Americans. The show, with its original Broadway cast (with the exception of Michael Darling—Broadway’s Joseph Stafford was replaced by Tom Halloran), aired as part of NBC’s Producers’ Showcase series.

13. The original Peter Pan broadcast drew over 65 million viewers.

At the time, this was the largest television audience to tune in for any single program. (To compare, an estimated 108.4 million people watched the 2013 Super Bowl while the Friends series finale in 2004 drew an estimated 52.5 million pairs of eyes.)

14. The 2014 Peter Pan Live! will be the fourth live television performance of the musical.

After the mammoth success of NBC’s Peter Pan broadcast in 1955, the network restaged it again the following year. A new version, also starring Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard but with a new supporting cast, was broadcast in 1960. The 1960 broadcast was released on VHS in 1990, therefore making it the version most near-and-dear to Millennials’ and Gen Xers’ hearts. 

15. Allison Williams is the fourth woman to don Peter’s green tights.

Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, and Cathy Rigby (in the 1979 and 1990 Broadway revivals, respectively) portrayed Robbins’ version of the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up before her. 

16. Mary Martin and Maureen Bailey (who played Wendy in the 1960 version) would later reunite on stage.

Bailey joined the cast (as an ensemble member and Liesl understudy) of The Sound of Music on Broadway during its 1959-1963 run. Martin played Maria. 

17. Sondra Lee (Tiger Lily in the 1960 version) published a memoir in 2009 called I’ve Slept with Everybody.

In it, she insinuates that she had a romantic relationship with Marlon Brando—and publishes love letters and postcards that seem to prove it!

18. J. K. Simmons played Captain Hook.

J. K. Simmons (Whiplash, The Closer, Juno) danced the tarantella as Captain Hook opposite Cathy Rigby in the 1991 Broadway production. He also played Mr. Darling.

19. In fact, Captain Hook and Mr. Darling are always played by the same actor—except in the 2014 version.

The double casting trick, in which Captain Hook and Mr. Darling are played by the same person, provides a clever parallelism between the reality of the Darlings' London and the dream world that is Neverland. It’s only fitting that the disciplinarian father would transform into the villainous pirate.

NBC abandoned this trope for its 2014 broadcast of Peter Pan Live!, in which Christopher Walken will play Captain Hook. But to keep the spirit (if not the significance) of the double casting alive, Christian Borle will play both Mr. Darling (opposite Kelli O’Hara’s Mrs. Darling) and Hook’s sidekick Smee. 

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
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iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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