Finding Neverland, onstage now at DPAC under the direction of Diane Paulus, is a story about the power and beauty of the imagination. It’s also, of course, the life story of writer J.M. Barrie and the things that inspired his famous Peter Pan story. It’s fitting, then, that the show would open with all of Barrie’s lively and most well-known characters flitting and jousting across the stage. Soon, though, Barrie (Billy Harrigan Tighe) takes the stage, and the characters fade into the background. The story then begins, showing how Barrie met the family who would inspire his story and the relationships he develops with them along the way.
As the story unfolds, Mia Michaels’ whimsical choreography keeps every number humming along smoothly. The songs are fun and well-matched to the story and are brought to life not just by the choreography but by nice uses of color and fanciful touches, such as bright red balloons and beautifully painted backdrops.
All of the actors perform well here too, giving the production a smooth, easy-to-follow feel that makes the time pass quickly. Tighe makes for a likeable, appropriately childlike Barrie while Christine Dwyer is wonderfully sympathetic and sweet as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, the widowed mother of the four boys who will eventually inspire Barrie to write Peter Pan. And the boys, it must be said, are absolutely fabulous- one of the best parts of the show. Mitchell Wray is particularly endearing as the troubled Peter while Jordan Cole is absolutely adorable in his portrayal of little Michael.
At some points, despite the strong performances, the show can veer into overly silly territory, sometimes breaking the fourth wall for needless jokes. Despite these slight imperfections, however, the story is strong and is ultimately one that most audiences will find enjoyable. The ending, while somewhat sad, is ultimately one of hope and will leave audiences feeling inspired.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents FINDING NEVERLAND at 7:30 p.m. May 24 and 25, 8 p.m. May 26, 2 and 8 p.m. May 27, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 28 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
Tickets: $40 and up, plus taxes. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/2209739.
GROUP RATES (12+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
THE TOUR: http://findingneverlandthemusical.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/finding-neverland–500948, https://www.facebook.com/FindingNeverlandTheMusical, https://twitter.com/neverlandbway, and https://www.youtube.com/user/NeverlandTheMusical.
TOUR CAST/CREATIVE TEAM: http://findingneverlandthemusical.com/cast/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 24th, and 8 p.m. Friday, May 26th, performances.
Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy (1904 play and 1911 novel): https://www.britannica.com/topic/Peter-Pan-play-by-Barrie (Encyclopædia Britannica) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_Wendy (Wikipedia).
Sir J.M. Barrie (Scottish actor, dramatist, and novelist, nee James Matthew Barrie, 1860-1937): https://www.britannica.com/biography/J-M-Barrie (Encyclopædia Britannica), http://jmbarrie.co.uk/ (Dafydd Brown’s fan site), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/james-m-barrie-6613 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0057381/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._M._Barrie (Wikipedia).
The Man Who Was Peter Pan (1998 play): http://jmbarrie.co.uk/msgbrd/index.php?topic=48.0 (JMBarrie.co.uk web page).
Allan Knee (playwright and screenwriter): http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsK/knee-allan.html (Dollee.com: The Playwrights Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/allan-knee-4078 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0460632/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Knee (Wikipedia).
Finding Neverland (2004 film): https://www.miramax.com/movie/finding-neverland/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0308644/ (Internet Movie Database), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/452507/Finding-Neverland/ (Turner Classic Movies), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finding_Neverland_(film) (Wikipedia).
Finding Neverland (2015 Broadway and 2017 West End musical): http://findingneverlandthemusical.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/finding-neverland-498336 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finding_Neverland_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Gary Barlow (music and lyrics): http://www.garybarlow.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/gary-barlow-498339 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0055239/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Barlow (Wikipedia).
Eliot Kennedy (music and lyrics): http://smatalent.com/kennedy-eliot/ (SMA Talent bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/eliot-kennedy-498340 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1590293/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliot_Kennedy (Wikipedia).
James Graham (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/james-graham-498338 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3037341/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Graham_(playwright) (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.