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Musical Review: Finding Neverland


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Nellie Shih ’19, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Finding Neverland is a musical based on the film of the same name (starring Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp) that tells the story of J. M. Barrie, the Scottish author of Peter Pan and the family that inspired him to write the play. Barrie had been a successful playwright, but feels as if he were telling the same story over and over, and is now searching for new inspiration. One day while in London’s Kensington Gardens, Barrie meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her children George, Michael, Jack, and Peter. As Barrie begins to spend more time with Sylvia and the Davies family, accompanying them on their imaginative adventures, he sees his new play come to life right before his eyes.

I saw Finding Neverland in November, and in the first few minutes I honestly wasn’t blown away: the songs were fun, but not memorable. But by the end of the show, I had fallen in love with the story, the characters, the staging, and how everything in Barrie’ life factored into the story Peter Pan we all know today. For example, in one scene, Barrie invites the Davies to his home for a dinner party and Peter wears a green suit, just like how Peter Pan wears green. The idea of Neverland comes from a place Barrie imagined as a child when he lost his brother in a skating accident. Captain Hook was a figment of Barrie’s imagination, inspiring him to take risks and become who he was meant to be. I loved seeing how as the musical progressed, Peter Pan began to take shape and how the little things like the green suit and something about an acorn and a thimble weren’t obviously shoved in front of your face; they were subtle and not everyone caught everything.

The biggest problem I have with the show is that if you were to listen to the soundtrack of Finding Neverland, you would not experience the show how it was meant to be experienced. Aside from seeing how the little things factored into the story of Peter Pan, I loved the staging and thought the songs were all visually appealing. One of my favorite songs was “We Own the Night,” which gives you insight into Barrie’s mind and imagination when is bored out of his mind at the formal dinner party. “Circus of Your Mind” took you back into Barrie’s mind, this time showing the chaos within as he struggled with his personal life and job, almost as if he were on a carousel. “What You Mean to Me” was both beautiful musically and visually; the dancing shadows of the characters on the background of the set gave the presentation of the song an ethereal effect.

Currently, the tour cast of Finding Neverland stars Billy Harrigan Tighe as J. M. Barrie and Lael Van Keuren as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. I thought these two leads were phenomenal: Tighe perfectly captured Barrie’s curiosity, adventure, mischief, and sweetness, and to top it all off, he had an amazing voice, and Van Keuren also had a beautiful voice and portrayed Davies as so sweet, sympathetic, mature, but she was still full of childlike wonder. The two leads worked extremely well together and with the kids in the show. I was impressed by all the kids, especially Peter, and of how they handled the more emotional scenes with the adult leads.

Overall, I loved Finding Neverland. I think it’s such a sweet show, and the message of following your dreams, taking risks, and of love and loss was extremely powerful and relevant. Though the show has closed in Cincinnati and has moved on to its next stop on its tour, I would highly recommend seeing it if you happen to be wherever it’s playing next.

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Musical Review: Finding Neverland