The story of Peter Pan is one that holds its magic throughout decades of retellings, and its author’s story shows where the tale’s imagination stemmed.
Finding Neverland, based on the 2004 movie of the same title, got its roots from the 1998 play The Man Who Was Peter Pan. It follow’s Pan’s author, James Barrie (Kevin Kern) as he looks for an idea for his next play, following a collection of successful scripts, with theatre owner Charles Frohman (Tom Hewitt) looking to open immediately. While writing in the park, he encounters a group of boys playing pirates, along with their mother Sylvia (Christine Dwyer). While Barrie is already married, he becomes a fatherly figure to the widowed family, using their adventures to inspire his work.
Finding Neverland premiered on Broadway in 2012 and closed just a few months before launching its national tour this past October. While it was nominated for a few smaller awards, the production was completely snubbed at the Tony Awards.
And maybe there’s a few solid reasons why.
While the show has its blockbuster moments, the book by James Graham sometimes drowns in its own gamut of emotions. Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy teamed up on the music and lyrics. The music is its strongest point, bringing in a variety of powerhouse ballads, soaring duets and charming toe-tappers, but its lyricism bounces frequently between weak or trying too hard, cheapening the melodies.
The group numbers add magic, and the choreography by Mia Michaels is fresh and engaging, but I just couldn’t get on board with the cheesed-up numbers about nursery rhymes and opening nights.
But when this show soars, it hit some epic heights. The Act 1 finale, Stronger, is a powerful moment from both Kern and Hewitt’s dual role of the Captain Hook in Barrie’s imagination. The ballads performed by Dwyer as Sylvia are heart wrenching, and her departure to Neverland at the end is elegantly executed with theatrical magic.
See this one for its big voices and bigger moment. It seems like no expense was spared to make Finding Neverland the kind of show it need to be. While there are weak moments, the epic parts keep you starry-eyed and dreaming about them straight on ‘til morning.