BWW Review: FINDING NEVERLAND at Winspear Opera House
With enough glittering pixie dust and wonder for children of all ages, it doesn't take much magic for a musical to fly high. Any that's exactly the case in the touring production of FINDING NEVERLAND, which opened to a cheerful crowd last night at Dallas' Winspear Opera House for a two-week engagement.
Based on the Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet film of the same name, the musical made its American premiere in Boston in 2014 before its retooled Broadway debut the following year. With additional revisions for the touring production (including a new opening and closing to the show), the musical arrives to town stronger than ever, led by powerhouse Broadway veterans Billy Harrigan Tighe (J.M.Barrie), Christine Dwyer (Sylvia) and stage and screen star John Davidson, who assumed the role of Captain James Hook just prior to the Winspear tour stop.
FINDING NEVERLAND musicalizes the mostly true tale of how writer J.M. Barrie penned his classic play, "Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up." As the curtain rises, Barrie is searching London's Kensington Gardens for inspiration and stumbles upon four spirited young boys and their recently widowed mother, Sylvia Llewelyn Davis. Barrie's wife, Mary Barrie (Kristine Reese) and Sylvia's sophistically stuck-up mother, Mrs. Du Maurier (Karen Murphy), being social climbers and sensitive to public opinion, are none-too-keen on the budding relationship Barrie, Sylvia and the boys have found. As the women do their best to distance Barrie and the boys from their frequent play dates, he continues to find inspiration in their outlook on life, which provides frequent themes of imagination, dreaming and believing.
Director Diane Paulus has shaped the story with the perfect balance of upbeat excitement and sweet sentiment, allowing the familiar tale to soar without being too over the top. But it's Mia Michaels' edgy, modern choreography that creates the unique vibe for the otherwise classical tale. Her staging compliments Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy's dramatic pop-score, which is chalk-full of moving power ballads...despite songs occasionally lacking a strong hook (no pun intended).
Although the show is perfectly suitable for the youngsters in the crowd, FINDING NEVERLAND is especially heartwarming for the kid at heart inside the rest of us. Fans of any version of the PETER PAN story will find joy in seeing the inspiration for celebrated moments like Tinkerbell and the famous pirate's hook. And there is a dramatic stage effect late in the show, which is equal parts heartbreaking and magical, that will be sure to wow even the hardest-to-please theatregoers.
FINDING NEVERLAND continues at the Winspear Opera House through Sunday, July 23rd. Tickets and more information can be found at www.ATTPAC.org.