See Finding Neverland at Keller Auditorium Through January 8, 2017
When I first learned about Finding Neverland at our local theatre, I thought, hmm, okay. All I knew about the show was that it was the story behind Peter Pan. How J.M. Barrie came to create the characters and story. I like Peter Pan, I like theatre. A few asks around town and online and I heard it was amazing, so sure, I’ll bite. Lets go! At the very least it would be a nice date night with my hubby. Our son is 6, and we weren’t sure if he would be up for the task of sitting through an entire live show yet, so he stayed behind
Over the flawless, crisp performance of a live orchestra, lush and rich curtains raised revealing a bright scene straight out of the actual Peter Pan story. Wait a minute… There was Peter, the Lost Boys, Captain Hook, a few strategic pirates, and host of other supporting characters. Huh? I was as confused as E.T. phoning home after eating his Reese’s Pieces in the first scene of the movie. Barrie entered the stage and quickly and adeptly reminded us (and specifically them) that they do not exist yet. This story, Finding Neverland, is the story of how they came to be, not how they are in the Peter Pan story itself. After a moment of realization they were not the story here, the premature actors all shrugged off the stage and got out of the way so Barrie could spin his yarn. And I was hooked – line and sink-AR – if you will.
Kevin Kern is remarkable JM Barrie, a role he understudied with Matthew Morrison on Broadway, and a perfect match for Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. Sylvia is his love interest, a beautiful but steadfast young widow with four rambunctious boys (OMG!). Tom Hewitt wields his impressive presence and booming voice as both Captain Hook and the theatre impresario Charles Frohman. (My personal favorite talent of the night)
Without being a spoil-ARRRR for my readers, the four boys quite literally run into Barrie in Kensington Gardens and spark a wonderful and deep relationship where the boys remind Barrie what it is like to use his imagination to see things differently (thus “Finding” his inspiration) as he develops a lasting bond with them as his new (and instant) family.
The staging and lights in the Keller were stunning. Warm and rich yet subtle. There was a mix of fast and slow set changes, live motion props, live movie-like projections onto the curtains all about the stage, silhouette and colored spotlighting, and a magnificent finale with sparkling fairy dust and real swirling (yet amazingly controlled) vortex taking the story into the heights of my imagination (and the stage). Somehow they also managed to squeeze the world’s cutest and best trained dog into the performance who delivered pillows to beds on the stage, calmly relaxed as a storm of activity cacophonied around him, all the while garnering the required cooing from audience members due to his furry cuteness factor. (I was reminded he might be the second cutest dog in the world by my son, but he is definitely the best trained.)
It’s easy to forget how talented a group of actor-dancer-singers are as we watch entertainment from the security of our boob tubes in our homes, but to see the intricacies and tenderness of the whole performance (which included four very young children in demanding starring roles) up front and, as far as I could tell, without any flaws in delivery, voice, lines, dance, or set changes, is something else.
It reminded me of when I went to the real Grand Ole Opry live in Nashville and heard in all of its stereophonic glory the true talents of A level real live musicians performing A level real live musical performances – “I’ll be darned. They really are that good.” –As Clara Peller might muse, there’s the beef – all killer, no filler. I want my kid to see Finding Neverland, and I want both of us and my Husband to see Peter Pan, but I can’t take my kid to see Peter Pan, until we both see this together again with my son (I mean, he needs the background, right? And I need another night out with my husband!), so I guess that’s that that
To wrap it up, I really enjoyed this show. I was a great tremendous production that moved at a brisk pace. The story was never boring, the show never dull, and even my husband said he really enjoyed “the peanut butter dude thing” (I got nothing). If you get a chance, this is a great night out for date night or the whole family.