The Finding Neverland national tour stops at Dr. Phillips Center. In a city full of pixie dust, the musical about J.M. Barrie expects the audience to remember childlike imagination and believe.
The story of Peter Pan has been told over and over. From Disney animation to questionable live action remakes, most people can recall some aspect of the boy who will never grow up. But, what about the man who created the imaginative story? The Finding Neverland national tour brings the story of JM Barrie to the stage. For a few hours, audiences are asked to fly away to an imaginative world where they can believe.
The Cast of Finding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel photo provided by Dr. Philips Center
After leaving Broadway, the national touring production of Finding Neverland modified the first 20 minutes of Act 1. Instead of a world turned upside down, audiences are quickly introduced to London and its characters. Before the story can be set, JM Barrie, played by Will Rey on opening night, implores the audience to embrace his imagination and your own.
Rey’s portrayal of Barrie highlights a vulnerable and insecure side. As the character who needs to reinvent his path, musical numbers with the children are most successful. Rediscovering his creative side comes from embracing the children’s free spirit. The audience can see how the Peter Pan characters grew out of relatable experiences.
Ben Krieger as Peter Llewelyn Davies and Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the National Tour of Finding Neverland photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center
While some of the lighthearted moments overshadow the poignant ones, this show has many endearing turns. Sylvia, played by Christine Dwyer, captures the challenges a mother faces. She seeks happiness for her children, yet she is still fragile from her loss. As she faces the prospect of leaving her children without any parent, she holds dear the belief that her children will find contentment. The happy memories will always be within reach.
The brightest star in production is Peter, played by Ben Krieger. His character has the biggest transformation in the show. From the inward, unsure boy to the imaginative young man filled with confidence, this young actor played the part powerfully. Although the boy who will never grow up is his namesake, his character captures the difference between imagination and irresponsibility. Dreams and faraway lands can exist, but life cannot be avoided to live in his imagination.
Billy Harrigan Tighe as JM Barrie and Tom Hewitt as Captain Hook in Finding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center
Additionally, Rory Donovan’s portrayal of Barrie’s producer/Captain Hook was more comical than sinister. His quick wit didn’t have bite. Rather, the audience saw him as the exasperated man trying to keep everyone’s interests afloat. At difficult moments, his appearance lightened the mood for everyone.
For theater goers expecting Peter Pan soaring across the stage or Tinkerbell sprinkling pixie dust, this musical isn’t for them. Finding Neverland is about relationships, internal struggles and finding happiness. Yes, a few scenes reference the classic tale, but this show is about J.M. Barrie the author, not the boy who never grew up.
Finding Neverland national tour is currently playing Orlando’s Dr. Philips Center through June 11, 2017. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office. This show completed the 2016-2017 Broadway in Orlando season.
Believing in dreams and a vivid imagination aren’t just for children. A trip to Neverland can open your eyes and heart to the many possibilities that life brings. Your feet don’t have to leave the ground, but you may want to soar toward new aspirations.