BWW Review: FINDING NEVERLAND at the Eccles Theater is Imaginative
The national tour of FINDING NEVERLAND at the Eccles Theater is imaginative and filled with passion and childlike wonder.
FINDING NEVERLAND (book by James Graham, music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy) is based on the 2004 film of the same name. Playwright J.M. Barrie is in a creative slump until he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four boys, who inject vitality into his life and inspire the characters and plot of PETER PAN.
Although always engaging, the book and score are hit or miss with some wonderful artistic moments but also some missed opportunities for emotional connection.
The show is often visually spectacular (especially in one emotional scene near the end). The scenic design by Scott Pask, projection design by Jon Driscoll, and lighting design by Kenneth Posner are creative and fluid, both reflecting the Victorian setting and the world of the characters' imagination. They do sometimes become a bit ostentatious and are most successful when restrained, with the tasteful and appealing "All That Matters" and "What You Mean to Me" sequences, featuring projections and lighting on a worn brick wall, prime examples of the success. The period costuming by Suttirat Anne Larlarb is a worthy addition.
The staging and performances are stylized to showcase the void between J.M. Barrie and the mundane rest of society. However, this direction all too often results in over-the-top characterization and delivery throughout the cast.
Still, Jeff Sullivan as Barrie has more than enough charisma and talent to carry the story and make the audience believe.
The children, who rotate their roles nightly, are phenomenal. At the reviewed performance, Ethan Stokes played George, Josiah Smothers played Jack, and Brody Bett played Michael. Seth Erdley gave an exceptional performance as Peter.
Ruby Gibbs as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, Conor McGiffin as Charles Frohman/Captain Hook, Emmanuelle Zeesman as Mrs. Du Maurier, and Ashley Edler as Mary Barrie all shine, as does Utahn Adrien Swenson in her cameo as Miss Bassett.
FINDING NEVERLAND plays the Eccles Theater for a limited engagement through Sunday, December 9, 2018. For tickets, call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS (2787) or visit www.artsaltlake.org.
Photo Credit: Cast of FINDING NEVERLAND. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.