BWW Interview: Kirk Lawrence of FINDING NEVERLAND at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
Finding Neverland, the 2004 Academy Award-winning film starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, was based on the 1998 play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee. In 2015, the stage version with music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy and book by James Graham first appeared on Broadway.
This story follows J.M. Barrie, struggling playwright, who finds inspiration in his friendship with widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her sons, George, Jack, Peter, and Michael. His adventures with Sylvia and the boys lead him to create Peter Pan, a play produced by Charles Frohman, who expects it to fail. Join Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies family in their journey to Neverland as Finding Neverland appears on stage at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre August 16-September 21. Kirk Lawrence, who takes on the role of Charles Frohman/Captain James Hook took some time to give us a sneak peek into the world of Finding Neverland.
BWW: How did you get into acting?
Lawrence: My wise mother got me involved with Genesius Theatre in Reading, PA when I was an 11-year-old withdrawn child, more interested in the arts than sports. I was cast as a Lost Boy in Peter Pan. There I spent the next seven years learning as much as I could about my new home-theatre.
BWW: What is your dream role that you haven't yet had an opportunity to play? And why is it your dream role?
Lawrence: Luckily, I've had the opportunity to play three of my dream roles: Hedwig (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), twice; Sweeney Todd (Sweeney Todd), twice; Albin/Zaza (La Cage aux Folles). I'd love to have the opportunity to try on Albin/Zaza again. And now, with Charles Frohman/Captain Hook on my current project, Finding Neverland, I don't know how much more theatrical treasure I could ask for. In the non-musical realm, I'd love to take a crack at Shakespeare's, Richard III. But honestly, there hasn't been a character I've played that I haven't loved.
BWW: What is your favorite show in which you have performed? Why is it your favorite?
Lawrence: Favorites are so difficult. I could easily say any of those mentioned in my previous response. I think I am finding, however, that Finding Neverland is rising to the top of the list. It is just so magical and heartfelt. I love the story and music, and the characters I play are both deeply complex, interesting men. I think I could possibly be happy doing this show for the rest of my life; it's that special.
BWW: What led you to want to be part of Finding Neverland?
Lawrence: It came into my consciousness in a very roundabout way. I had never seen the show (or movie version), but people from time to time would tell me it would be a great show for me. Finally, last December, after being told yet again that Frohman/Hook would be great parts for me, I relented and listened to the Original Cast Album. I fell in love with the show immediately. From that moment, I knew I had to do everything within my power to get cast for the tour. Luckily, it worked out, and I couldn't be happier! It's funny to me now that I resisted it for such a long time, but I guess things come to you when the time is right.
BWW: Tell us a little about your character(s) in Finding Neverland
Lawrence: My primary character is Charles Frohman. He is the Producer of the original production of Peter Pan at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. He is J. M. Barrie's friend, mentor, motivator, and, occasionally, tormentor.
Also, I play Captain James Hook, the "villain" of Peter Pan, and, in many ways, the savior of the show within our show. Without giving too much away, Act 1 ends with an epic fantasy section during which Captain Hook makes J. M. Barrie break free of convention and write the play his heart tells him to, which is, of course, Peter Pan.
BWW: Charles Frohman was an actual theatre producer. Tell us a little about the experience of playing an actual person.
Lawrence: It's been interesting. The real Frohman was much more optimistic and jovial, at least according to his biography. This biography was, however, co-written by his brother shortly after Charles's death (on the Lusitania, oddly enough), so I'm sure it presents him in the most positive light.
BWW: The role of the villain is always an interesting one. What is it about Captain James Hook that you enjoy most?
Lawrence: It seems I've made a career of playing morally ambiguous, complex characters. (And aren't they the most fun, after all?) And Hook falls squarely into that category. In our musical, if Hook didn't appear to Barrie, Peter Pan never would have been produced. In a scene before Hook's appearance, Frohman complains to Barrie that the story has no villain. It's the creation of Hook that convinces Frohman to produce the play. And playing Hook is a blast! He is so over the top-a strange mix of funny and terrifying. And he has great songs! Who could ask for more than that?
BWW: What is your favorite song in Finding Neverland?
Lawrence: It would be easy to say, my song "Live by the Hook". I truly love all the songs in this show, but if I have to pick one, here's three. "We're All Made of Stars" sung by the four brothers (the children who inspired Barrie to write Pan); "When Your Feet Don't Touch the Ground", a duet between Barrie and Peter (one of the children), and "Neverland", a duet between Barrie and Sylvia (mother of the children and love interest of Barrie). Okay, I can't resist adding a fourth..."Stronger", the epic pirate number that ends the first act.
BWW: For audiences who grew up on tales of Peter Pan, what do you think will appeal to them most in Finding Neverland?
Lawrence: They will get to see their favorite characters and how those characters came alive in the imagination of J. M. Barrie. And, not to be too sentimental, but their hearts will learn how to fly!
BWW: If you could go back to being a child, what would you most want to re-experience?
Lawrence: That trepidatious moment when I first walked into Genesius all those years ago and found my forever home in the theater.
Don't miss out on this magical adventure! Catch Finding Neverland at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre August 16-September 21. You can find tickets at www.dutchapple.com. Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel