BWW Review: Fly High With Imagination in FINDING NEVERLAND at BJCC Concert Hall
Right out the gate let me say "Finding Neverland" is not a Peter Pan musical. It's a wonderful and imaginative look at the creative inspirations that writer James Barrie molded into the magical world of Peter's adventures. "Finding Neverland" is an adaptation of the 2004 film starring Johnny Depp. This musical had a rocky start at its conception. Whatever bugs were present then have long since flown away. The play is full of heart and childlike wonder. It's not a children's show but it is one that children and adults will definitely enjoy.
This "once upon a time" story is set at the turn of the 20th century in London. Open on Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie (Jeff Sullivan) who's fallen into a heavy creative rut. It could not come a worse time for his friend and theater producer Charles Frohman (Connor McGiffin) is under the gun to put up a show or face financial ruin. Sullivan has a dodgy script ready to submit. That is until he encounters four enthusiastically imaginative boys (Jack, George, Michael and Peter) and their recently widowed mother Sylvia (Ruby Gibbs) in the park. Their antics spark his creative mojo and a new play starts to blossom in his head. As time is shared between them, the family becomes a muse to Barrie (Sullivan). As he struggles to make the story float, his own inner pirates help guide him to this place where imagination is limitless.
The conflict bubble up from cracks of Barrie's unhappy marriage to his tightly wound, social climbing wife Mary (Ashley Edler). Barrie's now frequent play date excursions with the children and Sylvia (Gibbs) in Kensington Gardens are rapidly raising eyebrows with much concern toward his morality and her decency. With no finished play, the impending financial doom is sounding like a clock under the water going tick tock, tick tock.
Jeff Sullivan strongly coveys Barrie as a man with an abundance of kindness and pixie dust. He brings a smooth, polished voice that soars as if it on the wings of a fairy. Ruby Gibbs gives bright life into the role of Sylvia. She delivers heart tugging deliveries and an enchanting voice fitting for a mermaid. In the endearing duets they share, you get swept away in the current of romance.
Connor McGiffin gives a riotous performance of the brash theater producer Charles Frohman. McGiffin slays the audience with comedy timing as sharp as a pirates hook. The supporting characters are hilariously exaggerated. They all boom with distinct personalities and are full of cartoon character comedy gold. The snappy and energetic choreography by three-time Emmy® winner Mia Michaels keeps the wind in the dancers sails. The touching and gleeful songs by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy definitely inspire you to visit iTunes after the show.
"Finding Neverland" is a delightful dive into the power of imagination. Leave your shadow and Take That leap.
Finding Neverland. April 5 - 7. Directed by Diane Paulus. Book by James Graham. Score by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy. Choreography by Mia Michaels, Orchestrations by Simon Hale. The BJCC Concert Hall, 2100 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N, Birmingham, AL 35203. Tickets and info at: findingneverlandthemusical.com
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel