Review: FINDING NEVERLAND National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

By: May. 24, 2017

Based on Marc Forster's 2004 Academy Award-winning film of the same name as well as Allan Knee's 1998 stage play, The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Finding Neverland tells the true story of J.M. Barrie, a Scottish playwright who's struggling to find inspiration until he meets four Young Brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys' enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write Peter Pan, a play that he hopes will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever.

This musical has had quite a bumpy history. It was originally set to have its world premiere in 2011 at the La Jolla Playhouse in California, but was cancelled. The world premiere then took place in Leicester, England one year later. After opening to mixed critical reviews, everyone on the creative team was replaced to completely revise the show. Following a sold out run at The American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the revised version made its Broadway debut on April 15th, 2015, where it received mixed-to-negative critical reviews and zero Tony Award nominations. Though it did spend over a year on Broadway for 565 performances after closing on August 21st, 2016.

As for my thoughts on the show, despite some visually dazzling stagecraft and charismatic performances from Billy Harrigan Tighe, Christine Dwyer, and Rory Donovan, I actually cried only because of how bored I was. The story dramatized here by book writer James Graham never once felt engaging to me and the humor he worked into it I didn't find all that funny either (I may have almost chuckled a couple times, but that was it). Though I will say that the four young boys played by Mitchell Wray, Finn Faulconer, Tyler Patrick Hennessy, and Jordan Cole all seemed very strong.

The score written by Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy I also found to be very inconsistent. There were some songs that seemed to fit nicely into the setting, others not so much as they sounded more like modern day. Simon Hale's orchestrations didn't seem to elevate the score either as it sounded very synthesized. What I felt this show was probably most lacking in was energy.

Overall, I didn't really find anything terrible about Finding Neverland, just nothing remarkable about it either. I must've been the only person in the audience who did not clap once at all throughout the whole show. To all the parents out there, if you're looking for a great family-oriented musical to bring your kids to, there are several that are much better than this.


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