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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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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Smart Shopping
This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
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As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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VicTsing Shower Speaker, Wireless Waterproof Speaker with 5W Driver, Suction Cup, Buit-in Mic, Hands-Free Speakerphone - Army Green for $18.99 (list price $24.99)

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Anker Quick Charge 2.0 36W Dual USB Car Charger, PowerDrive+ 2 for Galaxy S7 / S6 / Edge / Plus, Note 5 / 4 and PowerIQ for iPhone 7 / 6s / Plus, iPad Pro / Air 2 / mini, LG, Nexus, HTC and More for $12.99 (list price $59.99)

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ThermoPro TP03A Digital Food Cooking Thermometer Instant Read Meat Thermometer for Kitchen BBQ Grill Smoker for $10.49 (list price $29.99)

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Ado Glo Kitchen Shears - Stainless Steel Multi-Function Kitchen Scissors with Sharp Blade - Professional Poultry Shears for $12.95 (list price $34.99)

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Hamilton Beach 22910 Brushed Stainless Steel 2-Slice Toaster for $9.24 (list price $24.99)

Spiralizer 5-Blade Vegetable Slicer, Strongest-and-Heaviest Duty, Best Veggie Pasta & Spaghetti Maker for Low Carb/Paleo/Gluten-Free Meals, With 3 Exclusive Recipe eBooks for $29.99 (list price $49.99)

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Hiware 12-piece Good Stainless Steel Dinner Forks Cutlery Set, 8 Inches for $15.59 (list price $22.00)

HOME

Furhaven Orthopedic Mattress Pet Bed, Large, Cream, for Dogs and Cats for $25.49 (list price $30.44)

12 Air Plant Variety Pack - Bulk Assorted Species of Live Tillandsia House Plants for Sale - Wholesale Indoor Terrarium Air Plants by Aquatic Arts for $22.99 (list price $25.08)

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Mpow LED Solar light, Bright Security Lighting Outdoor Motion Sensor Lighting for Garden, Patio for $14.99 (list price $19.99)

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Premium 8 Piece Towel Set (Grey); 2 Bath Towels, 2 Hand Towels and 4 Washcloths - Cotton - Machine Washable, Hotel Quality, Super Soft and Highly Absorbent by Utopia Towels for $25.99 (list price $43.99)

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VicTsing 300ml Cool Mist Humidifier Ultrasonic Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser for Office Home Bedroom Living Room Study Yoga Spa - Wood Grain for $49.99 (list price $29.99)

Nerdwax Stop Slipping Glasses as Seen on Shark Tank for $12.99 (list price $14.99)

Redken Short Sculpt 19 Touchable Texturizing Gel, 3.4 Ounce for $12.46 (list price $20.00)

Oak Leaf 7X Magnification LED Lighted Makeup Mirror,Bright Shaving Bathroom Vanity Mirror with Strong Suction Cup,Touch-Activated,Rotates 360 Degrees,Daylight Color,Battery Operated for $19.99 (list price $59.99)

BraceUP Stabilizing Lumbar Lower Back Brace and Support Belt with Dual Adjustable Straps and Breathable Mesh Panels (S/M) for $23.99 (list price $45.98)

Brightdeal Replacement Brush Heads for Philips Sonicare Toothbrush E Series HX7022/66, Essence, Xtreme, Elite and Advance (6-pack) for $19.99 (list price $25.99)

Philips Sonicare Essence Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, White for $24.95 (list price $49.99)

Swiffer Duster Refills, Unscented Dusters Refill, 20 count for $13.97 (list price $15.99)

Braun Series 9-9095cc Wet and Dry Foil Shaver for Men with Cleaning Center, Electric Men's Razor, Razors, Shavers, Cordless Shaving System for $299.99 (list price $499.99)

Johnson's 24 Hr Moisturizing Wash Soft Body Lotion 12 fl oz (6 pack) for $26.99 (list price $29.99)

Germ-X 1000042965 Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer Lotion 4 oz. (Pack of 12) for $38.53 (list price $55.28)

Radha Beauty Natural Therapeutic Frankincense Essential Oil, 4 oz. for $16.95 (list price $49.99)

FHI Brands Stylus Thermal Styling Brush, Black for $79.99 (list price $99.99)

Thayers Alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera, 12 oz for $10.51 (list price $19.95)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

AmazonBasics Wireless Presenter for $21.00 (list price $24.99)

Anycolor 3 Pack Compatible Brother M221 M-K221 MK221 M Tape Black on White Label Tape for Brother P Touch Label Maker PT-90 PT-M95 PT-70BM PT-70 PT-65 PT-85 PT-45 (3/8" x 26.2' 9m x 8m) for $32.49 (list price $32.49)

EXPO Low-Odor Dry Erase Markers, Fine Tip, Assorted Colors, 8-Count for $7.37 (list price $11.49)

HIRALIY CH019 Aluminum Portable Laptop Stand for 13" & Smaller Laptops/Notebooks/ /Tablets (Grey) for $29.99 (list price $49.99)

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Clipboards (Set of 10) by Office Solutions Direct! Low Profile Clip Standard A4 Letter Size clipboard for $12.88 (list price $29.95)

VANRA Metal Mesh Desktop File Sorter Organizer Desk Tray Organize with 3 Letter Trays and 2 Vertical Upright Sections, Black for $33.98 (list price $68.80)

Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Bold (1.4mm), Assorted Colors, 12 Count for $6.69 (list price $17.09)

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EXPO Low-Odor Dry Erase Markers, Chisel Tip, Fashion Colors, 8-Count for $4.94 (list price $8.92)

Board Dudes 18" x 22" Magnetic Dry Erase/Cork Combo Board (CYH10) for $13.19 (list price $20.23)

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OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

SHINE HAI Double Camping Hammock, Portable Lightweight Parachute Nylon Garden Hammock, Two Persons Bed for Backpacking, Camping, Travel, Beach, Yard for $23.99 (list price $139.99)

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Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottle (24-Ounce) (Starburst) for $8.92 (list price $11.99)

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Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor & Fitness Tracker (Black, Medium/XX-Large) for $41.12 (list price $58.49)

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JOOLA Conversion Table Tennis Top with Foam Backing and Net Set for $308.39 (list price $374.99)

Homitt 2 Way Y Hose Connector, Garden Hose Splitter with Comfortable Rubberized Grip for Easy Garden Life for $11.99 (list price $29.99)

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Caravan Sports Infinity Zero Gravity Chair, Beige for $36.23 (list price $79.99)

TOOLS

Schlage FE595 CAM 619 ACC Camelot Keypad Entry with Flex-Lock and Accent Levers, Satin Nickel for $87.73 (list price $109.67)

Etekcity 3 Pack Portable Outdoor LED Lantern with 9 AA Batteries - Camping Friendly (Black, Collapsible) for $17.99 (list price $50.99)

First Alert AF400-2 Tundra Fire Extinguisher Aerosol Spray Twin Pack for $22.49 (list price $28.92)

Maxcraft 60626 8-oz. Stubby Claw Hammer for $10.89 (list price $12.48)

Coleman Cable 02309 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord, Orange, 100-Feet for $22.92 (list price $26.30)

BLENDX 7mm to 19mm Ratchet Universal Sockets Metric Wrench Power Drill Adapter Set - Professional Repair Tools for $9.99 (list price $15.99)

First Alert SCO5CN Battery Operated Combination Carbon Monoxide/Smoke Alarm for $31.24 (list price $33.93)

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Custom Leathercraft 1100 Multi-Purpose Clip-on Zippered Poly Bags for $6.72 (list price $7.82)

Campbell Hausfeld 17-Piece Air Tool and Accessory Kit (MP284701AV) for $11.78 (list price $17.07)

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