We all know the story of Peter Pan, the boy from Neverland who never grew up. But how many of us know how the story Peter Pan came about? Well, if you’ve seen the movie Finding Neverland, you do know the story but for a more family-friendly version of the story of how author J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan, look no further than the touring version of the Broadway musical Finding Neverland now residing at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre.
In Finding Neverland we meet author and playwright J.M. Barrie (Billy Harrigan Tighe) who is struggling to come up with a new idea for a show for his American producer Charles Frohman (John Davidson). The last production was not as successful as the past shows, and when Barrie meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Christine Dwyer) in Kensington Park one day with her four boys, he learns that she’s a fan of his work but it’s all becoming a bit repetitive, picking out scenes from his new play and pointing out the similarities to his past work. Realizing he’s copying himself, Barrie is stumped but he draws a childlike inspiration from the boys, particularly Peter, who has lost his own childhood innocence after the death of his father. Peter inspires Barrie and Barrie inspires Peter, but will Froham be willing to put on a play “for children” that also involves people flying across the stage, something unheard of in 1904. There are laughs and tears along the way, but by the end the audience should feel just like Barrie’s boys who never grow up, full of wonder at this terrific production.
Finding Neverland‘s cast all turn in strong performances from the leads down to the ensemble who work hard throughout the show in several different roles. A show like this can succeed or fail on the strength of its ensemble and this show has one of the strongest out there. No one is phoning it in, that’s for sure particularly as the have to deal not only with multiple parts but Mia Michaels’ sometimes intricate and always eye-catching choreography. Billy Harrigan Tighe is wonderful as Barrie. Extremely handsome and charming with a lovely tenor voice, his Barrie is extremely likable and Tighe, who is in almost every scene of the show, also brings that childlike wonder to life as he interacts with the boys and relates his stories. Glee‘s Matthew Morrison originated the role on Broadway, but Tighe really makes this role his own.
Christine Dwyer is also lovely as Sylvia, making us feel like she truly is the mother to the four boys. Her performance is sweet and sincere and she also has a beautiful voice that gets to shine in her solo numbers “All That Matters” and “Sylvia’s Lullaby.” She and Tighe also have a wonderful duet, “Neverland”. The young actors who play the Davies boys Peter, Jack, Michael and George alternate roles but all of them are superb. Starting with the Baltimore production, iconic actor and TV personality John Davidson has stepped into the role of Frohman, who also doubles as Barrie’s conscience in the form of Captain Hook. For only having two weeks rehearsal, Davidson is wonderful in the role (originated by Kelsey Grammer on Broadway), immersing himself as the character so the audience isn’t just thinking “that’s John Davidson!” (or “That’s incredible!”). He also sounds great in his numbers and even gets to really chew the scenery a bit as Hook. Overall, a really wonderful performance.
The scenic design of Finding Neverland by Scott Pask is terrific as scenes change from a theatre stage to a park to a stately dining room, sometimes augmented with some amazing video projections designed by Jon Driscoll, at times making you feel as if you’re flying through the stars or moving through time. Lighting (Kenneth Posner), Costumes (Suttirat Anne Larlarb) and Hair & Makeup (Richard Mawbey) are all top notch, and the show also contains a few stunning illusions such as a moment near the end that involves a cyclone of fairy dust. Finding Neverland also has a collection of songs by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy that have a wonderful musicality to them and the cast, particularly in the group numbers, just makes that music soar. The Act I ender is also an amazing piece of spectacle with music, sets and a booming bass note that rumbles through the theatre. If it hadn’t been the last number in the first act, it would have certainly been a real showstopper anywhere else.
James Graham’s book also keeps the show mostly lighthearted, steering away from some of the more unseemly subject matter that was hinted at in the movie, keeping things family-friendly even in moments of sadness in the second act. Diane Paulus, who directed the wonderful revival of Pippin, keeps things moving smoothly from scene to scene, expertly weaving together the actors, the music and the visual elements for one of the most entertaining nights of theatre you’ll ever have. And the eight member orchestra led by Ryan Cantwell delivers wonderful musical accompaniment.
In Finding Neverland, the young boy Peter is forced to grow up too quickly because of his family tragedy, but through Barrie he is able to find his imagination again and regain that lost innocence. Finding Neverland may also make audience members feel young again, find their imaginations if only for a few hours.
Finding Neverlan plays Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre through Sunday, July 2. Future stops include Dallas, Greenville, Hartford, Boston, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Providence, Miami, Memphis, Richmond, Milwaukee and more! You can find the tour dates on the show’s website, or check our Ticketmaster link for ticket availability in your city. Any purchase through our link helps support Hotchka.com.
Finding Neverland runs about 2 hours and 35 minutes with one intermission.
Finding Neverland Montage
Finding Neverland Musical Montage
You can find the tour dates on the show’s website, or check our Ticketmaster link below for ticket availability in your city.