Award-winning crew brings the fairy tale story front and center.FINDING NEVERLAND is based on the 1998 play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee, and the 2004 motion picture Finding Neverland by David Magee starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie. The story follows playwright J.M. Barrie and his relationship with the family who inspired Peter Pan – a widowed Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons. At its core, Neverland the Broadway Musical is Barrie’s struggle to find inspiration and his ultimate journey into the magic of imagination and proof you never really have to grow up.
Sparked by the boys’ make believe adventures and set in London, Barrie opens his world by setting out to write a play telling of a place where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood is forever. Sprinkle in some pixie dust, a swashbuckling pirate, good old fashioned magic, and Neverland is born.
What Tony winning director Diana Paulus (Pippin, Hair) has done with this production is create a delightful evening for the entire family. With help from Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy (music and lyrics) and choreography by Emmy Award winner Mia Michaels (So You Think You Can Dance, Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium) there is a sense of whimsy and fun. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mary Poppins when it came to staging and costume design. The dance numbers were full of vigor and spice, bright colors and genuine heart.
Billy Harrigan Tighe as J.M. Barrie was joyous and sweet. His beautiful light voice was perfectly suited for the role. His acting relished in the dreamy Barrie especially as the show forged on and his inner child was awaken. His kinship with a young Peter makes this story possible in every sense of the word. There is a bonding between the two that is felt and genuinely tender as Barrie sees himself in the young lad. Perfectly cast as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, Christine Dwyer drew the audience in as the widow whom still believes in dreams as she wraps her sons in her warm blanket of love and devotion. Her solo All That Matters is truly a touching moment that encompasses her character and look on the world with a big red bow. It is a powerhouse performance with little noise and fanfare. Her performance sneaks up on you as she captures the essence of the story beautifully.
My favorite character the fantasy Captain Hook – his dual role as producer Charles Frohman – played by John Davidson has the best lines of the evening. His demeanor as Hook is exactly what I remember as kid. Pirate hat, coat, and legendary hook for a hand, Davidson delivers his character with just the right dose of fun and bravado. His role at the end of act one as the stage is turned into a pirate ship gives Pirates of the Caribbean a run for its money. Captain Hook, Barrie and Pirates sent us into intermission with a bang.
The young actors whom played the four brothers were outstanding. This was never more evident than their performance of We’re All Made of Stars. Of course when child actors are involved there is always the ‘awe’ factor. These young people are the real deal. Skilled actors and singers who will no doubt win your heart. This time around the cheeky appearance is left for the real star of the show, the dog. Yes, there is a live dog, Sammy, whom makes walk-ons throughout and is so well trained and behaved you almost don’t believe it’s real.
From crocodile to Tinker Bell to thimble and Peter himself, Neverland may just be the perfect fit for the entire family. And like the audience in attendance tonight, I too believe anything is possible and I can fly.
The Llewelyn Davies Children:
PETER: Turner Birthisel, Connor Jameson Casey, Wyatt Cirbus, Bergman Freedman, Colin Wheeler / GEORGE: Connor Jameson Casey, Bergman Freedman, Colin Wheeler / JACK: Turner Birthisel, Connor Jameson Casey, Wyatt Cirbus, Bergman Freedman, Tyler Patrick Hennessy, Colin Wheeler / MICHAEL: Turner Birthisel, Wyatt Cirbus, Tyler Patrick Hennessy