classic tale Peter Pan had been a regular Christmas Special diet in the United States. Starring Mary Martin and originally
made in the 1950s the production was considered good enough to continually repeat year after year. Top American producers
Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion decided to break with tradition and update the show sponsored by Hallmark Cards. It would star
Mia Farrow as Peter Pan, Danny Kaye as Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, Paula Kelly at Tiger Lily, Virginia McKenna as Mrs. Darling
and Briony McRoberts as Wendy.
John Gielgud would narrate the two-hour production. Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse would write an original composition
of songs. Ian Fraser would be musical director while the choreography would be in the capable hands of Oscar winner Michael
Kidd (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers).
Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith would be the producer/director ace team. A big challenge for me was that for the first
time ever, we would be involved in a stereo production. The first task was to record the music. This entailed a large orchestra
recorded onto 16-track machines with sufficient tracks left blank to add artistes' voices later. The arrangements, by
Dave Lindup and Peter Knight were top class
.Before shooting began, artists would be called in to add their voice tracks. Danny Kaye was one of the last to arrive.
It was a quiet Saturday afternoon. He was due at around 5:00 pm in the Studio C band room. To our surprise, he arrived at
2:00 pm. No other production staff was present so we arranged to play his tracks for him to listen to before going for a voice
recording. Anthony Newley and Ian Fraser had previously recorded a rough track of the lyrics for the artistes to learn. Danny
Kaye seemed a quiet, almost studious man and Roger Banks, the sound technician in the band room, ensured that he was happy
with his headphone playback level, microphone position, stool and music stand height, etc. In the sound control we had two
TV monitors looking at the band room. One long shot and one close on Danny. This often enabled us to foresee a problem or
a request before the event.
During a pause, Roger decided to talk to Danny. He related how several fans in the sound department were looking
forward to seeing him. In his enthusiasm, Roger even ventured to relay the lyrics of one particular item concerning "The
Vessel With The Pestle" (from the film The Court Jester). After several bad attempts to remember the lyrics, Danny
finally exploded and said to Roger, ‘If you must sing my songs get them right! It goes like this.....".
He then proceeded to sing the song at breakneck speed. Roger looked on in admiration and at the end remarked ‘that's
would have been the end of Roger's audio career, but Danny took a strange liking to Roger calling him Stringbean for the
rest of the entire production. .
Later, the entire crew gathered in the band room for a playback of the first ever production to come out of Elstree
in stereo. The show went out in the States with the option for viewers to tune in to their local radio stations to hear the
stereo mix while watching their mono televisions. This was 1975, long before television transmission could handle stereo sound.
Regretfully, after just a two-year run, the networks reverted to the Mary Martin version. Hey Ho! That's Show Business!
There is much more on PETER PAN
in CUE TAPE PLEASE, TED.