A few months ago, guest writer Lisa Gerstel-Zach reviewed Finding Neverland here on this blog. It was a passionate review and her final words have always stayed with me:
Finding Neverland is the story of how sometimes it takes a band of “wild children” to allow yourself to dig deep and reconnect with the person you truly are…It is an inspirational departure from the bleakness of societal boundaries and expectations, overdone dinner parties and the insistence that we behave like adults just because…
My only reservation was that no fairy dust made it our way enabling us too to fly.
Still, this review did not prompt me to see Finding Neverland. I sat on the idea for several months while recovering from an accident. But then very recently, when my tween suggested we see it, and I felt Broadway-deprived after not having seen a show for several months, I jumped at the idea.
And I’m so glad I did. The show is an absolute treasure. Everything from the story to the cast to the set to the costumes – we were both riveted. I laughed, I cried. Matthew Morrison is so delightful in the role originated by Johnny Depp in the film, a semi-fictionalized account of J.M. Barrie‘s creation of Peter Pan. At first I was taken back by his Scottish accent – he lays it on thick, but I got used to the fact that I wasn’t watching Mr. Schue from Glee – as did my love-struck tween.
Directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus, the musical also stars (everyone was so good that I feel compelled to list each and every one of them) Laura Michelle Kelly (who I took my daughter to see in Mary Poppins when she was 4 – she is a singing goddess), Carolee Carmello, Teal Wicks, Alex Dreier, Aidan Gemme, Jackson DeMott Hill, Noah Hinsdale, Sawyer Nunes, Christopher Paul Richards, Hayden Signoretti, Courtney Balan, Dana Costello, Colin Cunliffe, Rory Donovan, Chris Dwan, Kevin Kern, Josh Lamon, Melanie Moore, Mary Page Nance, Fred Odgaard, Emma Pfaeffle, Jonathan Ritter, Tyley Ross, Julius Anthony Rubio, Paul Slade Smith, Ron Todorowski, Jaime Verazin and Jessica Vosk. Terrance Mann recently joined the cast as Captain Hook, who he plays swiftly and skilfully.
The four young boys Barrie takes under his wing during the course of the show are magnificent. It was easy to see his inspiration as they dove into his play The Pirates of Kensington, clear inspiration for Peter Pan.
Much of the play takes place in Barrie’s imagination. The songs take us through to the finish line, which includes a very sad death scene with pixie dust and wind and it was so very moving.
I was hesitant to take my 12 year old – I had heard she’d be bored or that it wouldn’t be appropriate, but it was. It’s a more serious story than the original Peter Pan – there is not a lot of flying, but my daughter took it all in and laughed and cried at the right times. The music is memorable (I’m still singing “If the World Turned Upside Down” – a good sign when I can remember the tune the day after the show). There were plenty of kids in the audience, but I’d suffice to say that the show is for kids around 12 or 13 and up. There were a few things my daughter just didn’t understand (like the fact that people thought there was something not natural going on between Barrie and the boys), but most of it went over her head.
If you get a chance, see Finding Neverland. Morrison is in the cast until February and apparently Kelsey Grammar will return sometime in the near future to reprise his role.
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets to facilitate my review but all opinions are my own.