I rarely stray from reading and reviewing middle grade books. Today though I’m taking a detour for a review of the hit Broadway musical FINDING NEVERLAND, now touring across the United States. I caught one of the performances during its two week holiday stay in Colorado. Currently the show is in San Francisco. Check out the schedule to see if the production is coming to a theater near you this year.
The story is based on how J.M. Barrie resurfaces from a low point in his writing career. He’s out of fresh ideas and everything he writes looks like clones of his previous efforts. He needs inspiration and courage to write a different type of story audiences in the early 1900’s might not be ready for. The inspiration comes from a mother (Sylvia Llewelyn Davies) and her four boys he meets in the park one day.
Kevin Kern plays Barrie with determination and a booming voice. He also displays a softer side with ballads and duets he performs with Christine Dwyer–who plays and sings the role of the mother to perfection. Both Kern and Dwyer bring heart to their characters and these gifted performers will leave you in awe of what they deliver on the stage. Another nod goes to veteran stage actor, Tom Hewitt, who appears to be having the time of his life playing two roles.
A pivotal moment in the musical comes in the first act when Barrie fights off his hesitation to find the motivation to finish his classic PETER PAN.
Video backdrops of the London skyline appear in many of the scenes. Too often video projection is a not too successful venture to fill space. Here though it works–beautiful moving images that add to the action on stage.
Playing the four boys are a group of young performers who all have bright futures in the performing arts if they so choose. On the night I attended the Lost Boys included Ben Krieger (Peter), Finn Faulconer (George), Mitchell Wray (Jack–“There’s so many forks!”), and Jordan Cole (Michael–“Do you believe in fairies?”).
Ben leads the way with his sensitive portrayal of Peter. He has the acting chops and a beautiful voice. Finn, Mitchell, and Jordan supply more of the fun side of being imaginative kids. They bring a smile to your face whenever they’re on stage performing like seasoned veterans. Take a look at the boys’ solos from the second act with Finn in the lead.
Finding Neverland is appropriate for all ages. Of course with a dramatic retelling of history, there are some liberties taken with the story. A handy study guide gives a look at many of the real events Finding Neverland is based on.
Be assured each generation of audience goers will find something to their liking in the show. This is especially true for parents, writers, and middle grade kids. From the music to the laugh out loud moments to the endearing messages, Neverland is your place to never grow up. We should all be so lucky to find that spot in our hearts and in our writing.