Rob Reviews "Finding Neverland"
Have you ever wondered how “Peter Pan” came to be? How did J.M. Barrie come up with the idea for a story that would still have versions of it told to this day? And is it more palatable to you in musical form? Well, look no further than the stage adaptation of Alan Knee’s book, “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” known more popularly as “Finding Neverland”.
In this national touring company, Billy Harrigan Tighe plays Barrie, who is in full-blown popular playwright mode in turn-of-the-twentieth-century London and struggling to look for his next hit that isn’t a rehash of what he has done before. When he encounters a young widowed mother of four named Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Christine Dwyer), their lust for life and playful games spark his imagination to, even with resistance from everyone around him, pen the story that he would be attached to for the rest of time.
This cast is very strong and accomplishes something that has been a bit tough to capture in some of the recent productions I have been able to take in recently: doing any form of non-American accent that doesn’t get muddled as the dialogue is being delivered. With two leads whose voices are great separately and even better together, they are able to get this story to the audience with great ease. There are also great performances by all four children playing the Davies, showing great poise and professionalism by playing kids without playing kids, meaning that there was no “show kid” qualities to any of them and did a great job sharing the space together with solid give and take to each other and the rest of the cast. Add to that great turns by Karen Murphy as Sylvia’s mother, Mrs. du Maurier and an appearance by the great John Davidson (yes, THAT John Davidson) as Charles Froman, Barrie’s producer and inspiration for Captain Hook, and there was a fluidity to each and every scene that gave the impression that this cast has been in this production since its inception.
If there is a criticism here, it would come through the blend of the story and music. The songs themselves, co-written by former pop star and singer of Take That Gary Barlow and previous collaborator Eliot Kennedy, are well-written in their own right, but within the context of the story some of the songs felt a bit shoehorned in, with a prime example in “Sylvia’s Lullaby”. This is an absolutely gorgeous song that is delivered beautifully, but it just seemed kind of awkward in its transition to and from it. There are spots where it works really well (especially with “Circus of Your Mind” and “Something About This Night”), but not consistently enough to elevate the status of its overall evaluation above “fair to midland”.
I cannot say that I did not enjoy “Finding Neverland”. Quite the contrary; I found it to be visually stunning, well-choreographed, and really well executed. It just didn’t fire on all cylinders for me in the overall analysis of it. This is a great family show that has a little something for everyone, so if you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, it is here until July 23rd, and remember that this is a national touring company, so it may be somewhere near you soon!