Entertainment » Theatre

Finding Neverland

by Will Demers
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 29, 2017
Finding Neverland

One of the most famous books of all time received its inspiration from the author, James Matthew Barrie's relationship with a family. As an author, he got his start reviewing books and plays immediately following graduating from University. Already a fan of the theater from his days at Dumfries Academy in Scotland, James would cement his reputation for creating one of the theater's most enduring characters, Peter Pan.

"Finding Neverland" is the musical account of the adult Barrie and the family that would eventually inspire the fantastical tales of the boy who would never grow old. Loosely based on the 2004 movie of the same name that starred Johnny Depp in the lead role, this musical starts off in a rather pedestrian way.

Opening with the fictional figures from the book, we are introduced by James to the story and setting up the relationship between himself (Billy Harrigan Tighe) and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Lael Van Keuren.) It is Sylvia's children that fascinate James the most; extremely young at heart himself, he enjoys their company given that he has no children of his own. To his wife Mary's (Kristine Reese) chagrin, he spends more time with them and Sylvia than her.

An accomplished playwright at this point, Barrie is coaxed to write another hit by producer Charles Frohman ('70s TV icon John Davidson) who isn't ready to hear about fantasy boys who can fly. It is this play-within-a-play aspect in which the show hits its stride. As James fleshes out the story while getting to know the boys, mostly Peter (Connor Jameson Casey) who is angry and introspective following the death of his father, the younger becomes the inspiration for the flying lad.

The acting troupe under the direction of Frohman are caricatures to be sure but provide some comic relief especially during rehearsals and technical updates. At the turn of the century, there weren't many scene changes or flying actors in English theatre.

"Neverland" is a spectacle, filled with magical touches and vibrant colors, echoing the fantasy aspect of the boys and James' imagination. The second act is mesmerizing, especially when the boys are playing together and when one of the characters says goodbye the Broadway magic kicks in, creating a powerful glitter vortex that surprisingly takes the breath away.

The show has a serious side, which makes it all the more intense during the final act, but the musical numbers are wonderful, notably "All That Matters" and "Play." Davidson is perfectly cast as Frohman AND James' villain Captain Hook, where he seems to be having great fun in both roles. Tighe is quite good as Barrie himself; he has the boyish good looks and a twinkle in his eye.

Van Keuren is amazing as the mother Sylvia in a solid performance. But the magic, as it should be, is in the children of this cast. Casey is heartbreaking in his role as Peter and is flanked by three other talented young actors Colin Wheeler, (George) Wyatt Cirbus, (Jack) and Tyler Hennessey (Michael.) They all have talent to spare, and the actors of the theatre are quite funny, especially Matt Wolpe (Mr. Cromer) and Dwelvan David (Mr. Henshaw.) Both chew the scenery during their shining moments, but we are delighted to see it.

A fascinating look at the genesis of Peter Pan the stage production, "Finding Neverland" will have you finding your own inner child in a lovely night of theatre.

"Finding Neverland" runs through December 3 at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC), 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets, call 401-421-2997 or visit www.ppacri.org

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