Chad Reviews "Finding Neverland"
Few stories or characters in literature have the innate ability to instantly unlock the inner child inside each and every one of us as well or as consistently as Peter Pan. A classic fairy tale has been adapted and conveyed in almost every conceivable form of media from books to movies and even video games, the fascination with the concept of a boy who would never grow up keeps the hope of eternal youth and vitality burning inside each and every one of us. Thanks to the incredibly imaginative mind of J.M. Barrie, a Scottish author and playwright whom is inspired to write his infamous story after meeting a widow and her children in a park in London, it became a book called “The Man Who Would Be Peter Pan,” where Allan Knee chronicles the story of Barrie and his interaction with the Llewelyn Davies family and was later adapted into the Oscar-winning film “Finding Neverland” with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet in 2004. Coming full circle, the story returns to the stage as a musical as “Finding Neverland” comes to the Winspear Opera House.
After a disappointing reception of his latest play, J.M. Barrie (Billy Harrigan Tighe) finds himself beleaguered by his producer/benefactor Charles Frohman (John Davidson) to come up with a story that will help bring life back to their struggling theatre. While struggling to find inspiration with no help or sympathy from his incredibly distant wife Mary (Kristine Reese), he has a chance meeting with the Sylvia Llewellyn Davies (Christine Dwyer) and her 4 sons. After striking up a fast friendship with the family, the inspiration for what will eventually become the story of the enchanted world of Neverland begins to take shape, and it will not just change the course of Barrie’s life, but help shape the course of literary history.
This was a truly wonderful production to witness. The chemistry onstage with the performers was palpable as they seemed completely enraptured with the characters they were portraying. Watching Tighe and Dwyer interact with each other (as well as with the children) is incredibly convincing, even when the boys had a little difficulty keeping their performances “in the pocket”. The absolute standout in this cast has to be the great John Davidson, whom, when he’s revealed as the inspiration for one of the most memorable characters in Neverland is a truly jaw dropping moment that will stick with me for many years to come. But that was just one of many jaw dropping moments that continue to replay themselves in my mind, and to me, that’s what a truly memorable theatrical experience is really all about.