When F. Michael Haynie appeared in the Broadway musical “Wicked” in 2012, he performed in sold-out theaters of about 2,000 people each night.
But when the lights go on for Haynie and the cast of “Peter Pan Live!” on Dec. 4, the audience will be a bit bigger.
By about 20 million.
For the second straight year, NBC will broadcast a live musical to what is expected to be a significant audience. Last year’s live broadcast of “The Sound of Music Live!” drew about 22 million people (including DVR numbers). Haynie said similar numbers are expected for “Peter Pan Live!” starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken.
“Absolutely -- it’s their second go of it,” he said. “It’s the same producers as last year. It’s the same ‘Peter Pan’ material as the Broadway version, which had Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby (all of whom portrayed Peter Pan in different eras). There are new songs (in the current version) that haven’t been heard by anyone. It’s really kind of a revival of sorts rather than the film version that people already know.”
Haynie, a Stratford Academy alum, will play “Slightly Soiled,” one of the Lost Boys who befriends Peter Pan in Neverland. In addition to the TV special, Haynie and some of the Lost Boys and pirates will perform on a parade float during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York Thursday.
“He’s the one who is the most sure of himself,” Haynie said of his character. “He’s really cocky. Very confident. He thinks his mother named him, but in reality, he was lost with a tag on his clothes that said ‘slightly soiled.’ ”
Though Haynie has been a working actor since graduating New York University, appearing on TV, in movies and on stage, the telecast will definitely be the single biggest audience for which he has performed.
“It’s scary,” he said. “More people will be watching this one performance than have seen me in every other thing I’ve done during my entire career put together.”
Haynie described rehearsing for “Peter Pan Live!” as somewhat surreal because it’s staged like a musical but not in front of a live audience. And unlike a normal TV program, which is filmed and thus subject to multiple takes and editing, this will be a live broadcast, meaning there is no second chance if something goes wrong during the performance. “Peter Pan” is an unusually difficult production to mount because the lead actor uses wires to fly across the stage.
In addition, Haynie said stage actors usually feed off energy from the audience, such as laughter after a comedic line or applause after a song-and-dance routine. But there won’t be a studio audience for “Peter Pan Live!” -- just a crew of TV technicians filming them.
“It’s the weirdest thing in the world to not have that experience,” he said. “The audience is always another character in the show, and you get a lot of energy from them.”
Haynie said the 10 actors portraying the Lost Boys and Williams, who plays Peter Pan, have bonded through the rehearsal experience. Haynie said he hasn’t really seen much of “Girls,” Williams’s series on HBO.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “We all looked her up. I could see she is stunningly gorgeous with a great smile. She is so excited about the process. I had no idea she is such a great singer and dancer. It’s a great new take on the role. She is vibrant and youthful and all the things you’d want from Peter Pan.”
Haynie said he also is excited to work with Walken (playing Captain Hook), whom he describes as “a living legend.”
“He’s very kind and also very game,” Haynie said. “He’s always willing to try something new. He’ll try a line with a different beat. There’s no diva-ness -- he’s on the same team as everyone else.”
While Haynie grew up in a theatre-driven family, he said he never felt any pressure to become an actor. His father, Phil, himself starred in “Peter Pan” 20 years ago in a production in Chattanooga, Tennessee, while his mother, Sylvia, is a fixture in the Macon theater scene as a director and teacher. Haynie’s brother, J.P., is his roommate and an actor himself, working on TV shows like “Gotham” and “The Good Wife.”
Sylvia Haynie said she will watch the show live with a group of family and friends. She said she’ll be watching the broadcast not as someone with a theater background but as a proud -- and nervous -- mother.
“Truthfully, I’m very nervous as his mom,” she said. “I’ll also probably be very emotional. It’s scary, and it’s joyful. ... I saw him in ‘Wicked,’ and I cried the whole time. I was terrified and thrilled for him.”
She said she and those watching with her hope to Skype with her son on the night of the show.
Her son said he’s also nervous and excited as the air date draws closer.
“I wonder what it’s going to feel like when I know it’s live,” he said. “Every TV show or movie I’ve ever done, you don’t know which take will be used. But with this, we know this is the one. (Going on stage,) it’s like I’m burning with excitement -- my body temperature rises five degrees. It will be interesting to see what will happen. We all have to be very quiet while filming because everyone is wearing microphones. ... We’re ready for pretty much anything. It is live. You hope things go 100 percent right.”