BWW Interview: Christine Dwyer of FINDING NEVERLAND at Fox Theatre Atlanta
The North American tour of Finding Neverland, the Broadway musical that tells the inspirational story of the creation of Peter Pan, is making its home at Atlanta's Fox Theatre from May 16 - 21, and it's bringing with it an extraordinary cast, including Christine Dwyer in the role of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. Dwyer was gracious enough to share a little bit about her experience with the tour.
So, you're pretty much a seasoned touring actor.
Yeah. I would say my first big job out of college was a national tour, and since then, this is my third one. I've been kind of collectively on the road now for six or eight years.
What would you say are the biggest challenges of being an actor on a long tour like this one?
Constantly being on planes and things like that can be pretty difficult, especially on your voice, just breathing in that dry air all the time and then having to go directly into singing an eight-show week. That can be difficult. I feel like the most difficult part, for most of us anyways, is being away from our loved ones for that long and missing out on things like that, but you become really close with the people you're on tour with. You become your own little family, and, you know, the people that I've been with on the road before and in this show will become some of the closest and most dear people in my life because we've experienced this together, so there are definitely drawbacks, but there are also really great things that come out of touring for that long.
So Finding Neverland is a "movical." It is, of course, adapted from the popular movie of the same name starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. I'm wondering what the challenges are of playing an iconic role like that.
Definitely, the difference for me is that I've never been in a show about an actual historical figure that existed, so that was something that I had to do research on - the time period of the show I was in and actually the person. That was a challenge, but Diane Paulus [director of Finding Neverland] was definitely helpful during the rehearsal process and gave us a bunch of packets and things like that, just kind of about all our characters' backgrounds and how they know each other and who they were in society, so that was really helpful. Yeah, Kate Winslet is one of my favorite actresses. I think she's brilliant in everything she does. So, it's definitely overwhelming to have to play the same character she did, but I try to make it my own and, of course, our show is different. It's set to music, so there are quite a few differences from the movie version. I think actually a lot more in this show you get to know my character as much as you get to know J.M. Barrie, whereas in the movie there's more focus on Johnny Depp's character. So, I think I have the material to work with that makes it helpful to play this character and not worry too much about trying to be exactly like Kate Winslet.
Had you seen the film before you began working with the musical?
Yeah. Actually, years ago when I found out they were doing this musical I was so excited because I loved that film so much when it came out, so I was like, "Oh, I would love to play a part like that. That would be great. But I never thought anything of it because when Laura Michelle Kelly was attached to it- we're so different in vocal types and the roles that we play that I never really thought it would be something that I would be seen as, but another thing that Diane is really great about is bringing people in for things that aren't cookie-cutter versions of what she's cast before, so she brought me in because she wanted a fresh take on it. She wanted something different, and she really has helped me work on this character. Some of my costumes are a little bit different. Some of my hairstyles are a little bit different. Some of the lines are a little bit different based off of what I brought to the table. It's really cool and really really rare for a director to do that in a show that's already been done, so that was also super helpful and really exciting to be able to work on something like that.
I thought it was interesting that you brought up the experience of working with real historical figures as characters in this piece. What resonates with you about this story? About this character?
I think it's a story - for my character anyways - it's a story of perseverance through difficult times and being true to herself and really focusing all of her energy on making sure that her children stay young and excited about life. You know, they've been through a hard time. Their father has passed away in the past year when we meet her in the show, and she basically dedicates her whole life to making sure that they aren't depressed, that they can be kids and still play around, and she doesn't mind getting her hands dirty running around in the park and letting her hair down which was, you know, something that was not okay in this time period. She was sort of a rebel and a hippie in that way, which I kind of love. So, in terms of my character, that really resonates with me. In terms of what I want for people to bring away from the show, it's that it's never too late to follow your dreams and your heart and be true to the story that you want to tell, and I think with J.M. Barrie, he's been writing these plays that everybody else has wanted him to write, and they haven't been successful because they haven't come from his heart, and when he writes Peter Pan, it's one of the biggest successes that's ever been in theatre because it was something different and it came from his imagination and his inspiration. And, you know, it's never too late in your career, it's never too late in your life, to kind of remember what it was like to be a kid and to play around with different ideas and to be hopeful about the things that you can do. Especially, being an actor, you know, you kind of get into this place where you're like "Okay. This is the type people see me as, so I'm never going to be able to do anything else," and then a role like this comes along and I've only ever played these rock-and-roll, belter characters and then I get to play this Victorian era, pink-wearing soprano.
You have a long way to go on this tour. Is there a place you're really looking forward to going on the tour?
Actually, I'm really looking forward to going to the Atlanta aquarium because my fiancé happens to be visiting in Atlanta, and he's going to dive the tank with the whale sharks because he's certified. I'm not certified, but I'm excited to take pictures outside of the tank.
For information on how to purchase tickets to see Dwyer in Finding Neverland, visit http://foxtheatre.org/events/finding-neverland/.
The show is priced $33.50- $128.50 (applicable fees vary).
Tuesday May 16th at 7:30pm
Wednesday May 17th at 7:30pm
Thursday May 18th at 7:30pm
Friday May 19th at 8pm
Saturday May 20th at 2pm
Saturday May 20th at 8pm
Sunday May 21st at 1pm
Sunday May 21st at 6:30pm