Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg

“Finding Neverland” ran from Nov. 1 through 20 at the Conor Palace Theatre on Euclid Avenue. For tickets and more information on other shows, call 216-241-6000 or visit playhousesquare.com

 

November 22, 2016

‘Finding Neverland’ shows more pixie dust than misplaced shadows

 

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”

These words from J.M. Barrie’s 1904 production of “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” accurately reflect the 2015 Broadway production of “Finding Neverland,” recently on tour at Playhouse Square.

The show dreams of being an uplifting and entertaining musical, and it is. Written by James Graham and directed by Diane Paulus, this production was not without its fair share of sacrifices.

As did the 2004 film, on which the musical is based, the audience first encounters the Scottish playwright James M. Barrie (the wonderful Kevin Kern) in the thralls of writer’s block. He finds inspiration from the four young Llewelyn Davies boys (on opening night, the charming Finn Faulconer, Mitchell Wray, Jordan Cole and Eli Tokash) and their widowed and ill mother Sylvia (the silver-throated Christine Dwyer).

Unfortunately, the musical only hinted at Barrie’s depression, which was fully explored in the film, leaving a rather happy-go-lucky storyline that lacks substance, depth and historical accuracy. 

Where the film embraced more thought-provoking and melancholic themes, the music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy leave the audience merely uplifted.

So did the elaborate production values. 

Dramatic lighting by Kenneth Posner, animated projections by John Driscoll, and brightly colored set design by Scott Pask harbored wonderful fantasy and immense beauty.  

Staged insights into Barrie’s imagination, such as the elaborated production number where he recognizes and released his alter-ego Captain Hook (the charismatic Tom Hewitt), were extraordinary and entertaining.

Although the large cast of supporting characters are exceptionally talented, their presence often muddles the production. 

When the ensemble depicted servants swirling around the dining room or served as citizens frolicking in the park, their over-exaggerated choreography, courtesy of Mia Michaels, and their highly stylized acting often caused the main characters and their plights to be lost in all the hyperactive activity.

Like the original production of “Peter Pan,” “Finding Neverland” is certainly an adventure to the second star on the right.  But, as was done with the film, one would have hoped for a few unscheduled stops along the way.

 


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