Review by Lauryn Angel
The musical Finding Neverland is based on the 2004 film of the same name, about writer J. M. Barrie and his relationship with a family who inspired him to write his best-known work, Peter Pan. The story is loosely based on the real story, perhaps to keep it light-hearted. Barrie (Billy Harrigan Tighe) meets Silvia Llewelyn Davies (Christine Dwyer) and her children in the park, where the boys’ rambunctious behavior causes more than a little chaos. Barrie is particularly interested in Peter (Connor Jameson Casey), whose serious behavior serves as a marked contrast to that of his brothers.
Barrie needs a new play for his producer, Charles Frohman (John Davidson, who also plays a delightful Captain Hook), but he has lost the joy he once found in writing. In his efforts to help Peter find joy in behaving like a child again, Barrie in turn finds his inspiration in the Davies children and falls in love with their mother – much to the dismay of his wife Mary (Kristine Reese) and Sylvia’s mother, Mrs. DuMaurier (Karen Murphy).
The show is charming, and the cast is talented and entertaining – particularly John Davidson in his turn as Captain Hook and Dwelvan David as Mr. Henshaw, a much put-upon Shakespearean actor who is relegated to playing a dog in the production of Peter Pan. The scene-stealer, however, is Porthos, J. M. Barrie’s dog, played by a very real dog named Sammy.
The best reason to see this production of Finding Neverland is because it is simply beautiful. From the costumes designed by Suttirat Anne Larlarb, the scenic design by Scott Pask, and the projections designed by Jon Driscoll, I occasionally found myself distracted from the story by small details. During a scene set in a London street, I couldn’t help but be entranced by the clouds passing in front of the moon.
Finding Neverland runs through July 23 at the Winspear Opera House and closes out the 2016/2017 Broadway Series.