Mom Theatre Blogger: FINDING NEVERLAND: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
Starring Tony Award® nominee Matthew Morrison (“Glee,” South Pacific), Emmy® winner Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier,” La Cage aux Folles), Olivier Award-winner Laura Michelle Kelly (Mary Poppins), and based on the Academy Award® winning Miramax motion picture by the same name, Finding Neverland follows playwright J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, as he struggles to grow into his destiny as a man, both personally and professionally.
Directed by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Hair), with music and lyrics by Gary Barlow (Take That) and Grammy® winner Eliot Kennedy, book by Olivier Award nominee James Graham, and choreography by Emmy Award®-winner Mia Michaels (“So You Think You Can Dance,” Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium), Finding Neverland is at times a fantastical feat for the eyes, though it takes some time to take flight.
Finding Neverland features an impressive cast led by Matthew Morrison (“Glee,” South Pacific), Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier,” La Cage aux Folles), Laura Michelle Kelly (Mary Poppins) and Carolee Carmello (Parade), with Teal Wicks, Alex Dreier, Aidan Gemme, Jackson Demott Hill, Noah Hinsdale, Sawyer Nunes, Christopher Paul Richards, Hayden Signoretti with 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.
If you’re a fan of Morrison, you will love Finding Neverland. He is ideally cast as Barrie, and this is a showcase vehicle for him. He’s clearly a triple threat — singing, acting and dancing chops. Kelly is lovely, both vocally and in presence, as Sylvia, and their connection feels genuine and delivers some of the best moments in the show. They soar (not literally….unfortunately) in the tender duets What You Mean to Me and Neverland. Another standout song, though more of it would have played well, is The World is Upside Down. Much of the music featuring the cast at large doesn’t take off. On an emotional level, we care more for Barrie and his pursuit of love versus his floundering career, and at times, the storylines almost seem at odds with each other….like a play within a play.
I took my 12 year old son to see this production, and while he liked aspects, it’s really an adult show that features kids. The plot is way more serious (and downbeat) than playful, as the story of Peter Pan might suggest. Playwright J. M. Barrie is struggling to find his creative voice to pen a successful theatrical production, and he finds inspiration through four young boys who grieve the loss of their father (particularly Peter) — the sons of the beautiful widow Sylvia — all of whom enchant and lead Barrie to capture their vivid imagination on stage. Grammer is the relentlessly demanding and doubting producer of Barrie — and he doubles as an over the top, but amusing, Captain Hook. Singing is not his strength, but his comedic delivery is dead on, and he makes the most of a somewhat lame, contemporary Cheers reference thrown in.
The production features scenic design by Tony Award®-winner Scott Pask (Pippin, Book of Mormon), lighting design by Tony Award®-winner Kenneth Posner (The Coast of Utopia, Pippin), costume design by Suttirat Larlarb (Of Mice and Men), and sound design by Tony Award®-nominee Jonathan Deans (Pippin, La Cage aux Folles).
When all is said and done, you’re left with wanting to believe…..in the possibilities of life…..the creative spirit…..the power of the written word…..and to find solace in the ever-lasting memory and spark (like the light of Tinkerbell) of those who have left us. For all that, Barrie would have been pleased.
Finding Neverland is playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (205 West 46th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenues). For tickets and more information, visit www.FindingNeverlandTheMusical.com.