Here, unfortunately, Paulus is saddled with a lackluster score -- by pop veterans Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, who provide mostly syrupy ballads and vaguely peppy production numbers. The book, by rising playwright James Graham, is better -- hokey at points, but offering enough playful wit and compassion to make this story about the creation of Peter Pan fly...Glee alum Matthew Morrison...is predictably likable, and credible, as a man who rediscovers the boy inside himself...Gemme convincingly shows us how Peter's skepticism toward Barrie turns into affection and trust. His moments with Morrison are some of the truest and most poignant in the show...Special effects are on hand, as you might expect, to make these sequences more vivid...In the end, though, this Neverland is most charming in subdued moments, when the emphasis is on human connection and, eventually, loss.
FINDING NEVERLAND Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Finding Neverland on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Finding Neverland including the New York Times and More...
‘Finding Neverland’ Theater Review: Matthew Morrison Turns His Broadway Return Into Pure Child’s Play
Diane Paulus, the show's current director, has kept this musical tale about J. M. Barrie's creation of "Peter Pan" magnificently low tech...As Barrie's American producer Charles Frohman (and his Captain Hook), Kelsey Grammer far surpasses his stage work in "La Cage aux Folles." No one knows how to massage a laugh line better than Grammer, and rightly so, Morrison lets his co-star provide most of the night's humor. The "Glee" star, on the other hand, keeps it very low-key, giving real heart and enormous grace to Barrie...While Paulus has kept "Finding Neverland" relatively small, there's still some pandering to modern taste for the overblown, if not the entirely inappropriate...The rousing ensemble numbers by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy could be lifted from a 1950's musical...Overall, however, Weinstein's gamble has paid off. This production may not be total perfection, but it works real magic with its child's play.
The moments of pixie-dusted perfection come from Paulus' mind-especially one visually breathtaking moment of swirling, sparkled sadness. When my seven year-old companion (yes, families-this one's kid-friendly) asked upon leaving the matinee, "Can we go back tonight?" I thought of one of Sylvia's lines: "You know children. They don't mince their words." B+
The end result is both rousing and erratic, with bits of thrilling stage magic that are signature Diane Paulus...and dialogue that sometimes feels as if it's been focus group-sanitized to within an inch of its life...Morrison has a consistent Scottish brogue and a melancholy demeanor in a performance that's very likable...The quartet of boys playing the Llewelyn Davies children are exceptional...The melodies are pop-song good, if not likely to linger long with you...the first act closer "Stronger," which soars to a finish indeed so strong it left me trembling. One of the areas in which "Finding Neverland" succeeds is in its balance between technical and non-technical wizardry. Paulus knows when to use her bag of tricks...and when to let our imaginations do the work..."Finding Neverland" is best in its scenes with surrogate father Barrie and the four boys...Alongside Morrison, I think they're the ones who deserve a lot of the credit for getting "Finding Neverland" to fly.
Finding Neverland flies. Occasionally it even soars. The miracle is that the darned thing not only got off the ground, but that this musical prequel to the Peter Pan story arrives on Broadway much improved after a storied, bumpy tour of the hinterlands, with its intermittent charms intact, many of its missteps gone or at least minimized...the script, by James Graham, has been sharpened so as not to treat the audience too much like idiots...Perhaps Weinstein and Paulus were correct in replacing Jordan with the better-known Morrison, who has the look and voice of a Broadway star but is something of a stiff. The role wants a mood transplant, a child-like quality to which Jordan was more suited. Grammer, on the other hand, is an indisputable improvement...As Hook, he's just a ton of fun...sashaying around the stage, brandishing his hook and bullying J.M...As to the score by pop writers Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, well it doesn't offend, but I was still impervious to its desperate attempts to win me over...Finding Neverland is still too treacly...and the tear-wringing ending just goes on forever...But there's an audience for this show, which is visually cunning and something of a warm bath without being too insulting.
[Morrison's] Barrie is cool, distant and strangely invulnerable; neutrality is one of the more unusual aspects of this performance. And in a show with a cacophony of different styles and ideas in play at once, it stands in stark contrast with the work of Kelsey Grammer...But the real-life story of "Finding Neverland" is rich in complexity...In a deeper and gutsier musical, we'd better understand all that people felt about these matters -- indeed, we'd also probe the downside of not growing up and Barrie's interest therein. But "Finding Neverland"...does not want any piece of that...Time and again, it resorts to papering over any crack that opens up...Director Diane Paulus' staging, Scott Pask's set and Mia Michaels' choreography all play with the language of the circus, or at least of the musical hall. These approaches tend to work against the trajectory of the show...the score, which often has a rootsy, "Big River" feel and, despite some sticky melodies, remains far removed from the show's milieu. The show lacks a journey.
British playwright James Graham's story is part Edwardian melodrama, part love story, part origin story, part valentine to invention and part send-up of the theater itself. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that each has its own tone. Sometimes Graham is deadly earnest, sometimes he's sly and often he's just trying too hard at both. "Finding Neverland" awkwardly juggles parental death and divorce and puts them in a Disney show that Disney long ago stopped making...When the show is working on all cylinders, it's absolutely thrilling...The music and lyrics...lean on soaring pop melodies and lilting Irish folk. Some hit -- "When Your Feet Don't Touch the Ground" -- and some don't -- "All That Matters"...A decision seems to have been made to paper over any gaps in the show's coherence by backing up a truckload of pixie dust and pumping it into the theater. It also desperately wants you to cry with a series of false endings that will have you exhausted. "Finding Neverland" has some great performances but never finds its groove.
There's not enough flying in "Finding Neverland" -- metaphorical flying, that is, those giddy flights of wit and imagination that make us believe, if not in fairies, then at least that the American musical is still alive and well. Despite the technical marvels that director Diane Paulus brings to producer Harvey Weinstein's beloved obsession, this ambitious version...remains stubbornly earthbound. The lead in its feet has a lot to do with the ponderous lyrics, but at the heart of the matter, this material doesn't cry out to be a musical...Morrison ("Glee") is extremely well cast as the hypersensitive Scottish playwright, investing him with a stirring voice and a tender heart. But what can he do for a repressed character whose cerebral solo numbers are internalized thoughts?...In a way, the whole show seems to be holding its breath for this death scene, which Paulus ("Pippin") has staged with imaginative flair...It's just too bad that this magic is all in the service of transporting Sylvia Llewelyn Davies off to her death -- er, that is, to Neverland. Try explaining that one to the kids.
For a show about releasing the imagination, the musical is surprisingly conventional -- a down-the-middle family entertainment with excellent actors...as well as sturdy storytelling that recreates the movie with dogged fidelity...the production has a low-wattage wow factor that...mostly misses the chance to transform the fantasies in Barrie's mind with 21st century magic...Morrison -- a major Broadway talent before the world knew him as Mr. Schue from "Glee" -- has a beard and a three-piece suit and an endearing playfulness as yet-another sensitive father figure...Grammer gets all the best lines and delightfully makes the most of them...Designer Scott Pask's fantasy scenes -- except for a beautiful sparkly death scene for a beloved parent -- have an intentional homemade quality, while Mia Michaels' peculiar choreography traps high society in grotesque jerky cavorting. Brit pop composers Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy offer serviceable songs with elementary structures and rhymes we can sing before we hear them.
‘Finding Neverland’ review: Matthew Morrison, Kelsey Grammer, Laura Michelle Kelly in Peter Pan musical on Broadway
Matthew Morrison doesn't push. His ever-genuine and impressively easygoing star turn as writer J.M. Barrie in "Finding Neverland" is what makes his return to Broadway after six seasons of "Glee" cast such an irresistible spell. Less can be more, and he knows it. If only producer Harvey Weinstein and director Diane Paulus had learned that lesson...Barrie's scenes with the boys and Sylvia are the show's most big-hearted. Kelly, known for "Mary Poppins," is so sublime you wish she had more to do. "What You Mean to Me," a romantic pop duet she shares with Morrison, is the production's sweetest moment. Kelly is also center stage for the production's most touching moment near the end -- a breathtaking scene that suggests the people we love are like stars that look over us.
Surprisingly, there's no riff on singing at regionals, even though this new musical also stars Matthew Morrison, a?k?a Mr. Will Schuester of "Glee." That's pretty much the only sign of restraint in this overstuffed production...Holding it all together is Morrison. Sporting a beard and Scottish burr, he's tireless, if not especially charismatic, as J.M. Barrie...Barlow and Kennedy dutifully deliver the obligatory power ballads...but their heart is in the faster, livelier ensemble songs...Too bad Michaels' choreography has all the zest of vintage MTV. What's most striking is how a show about the power of whimsy and imagination is so lacking in both. Paulus and Company don't trust intimacy and charm, so everything is overplayed -- despite the advice to an actor rehearsing Barrie's "Peter Pan" to go "smaller." Peter Pan taught others to free themselves and fly. For most of its running time, "Finding Neverland" remains stuck to the ground.
...it would be a pleasure to say that all the difficulties stirred up as impresario Weinstein piloted this one in has resulted in a whopper of show. Not to be...it's at best a treasure chest of only mixed delights...Morrison as a successful playwright dry of ideas but thick with Scottish accent is earnest and sturdy...Laura Michelle Kelly is appealing as a widow trying to raise her sons to the best of her ability. The Llewelyn Davies boys...have charm to spare...To gussy up the proceedings, Graham, Barlow, Kennedy and director Diane Paulus, relying on her Pippin-like circus instincts, turn to all sorts of diversions. One of the fussiest is Frohman's acting troupe. They behave like something from Charles Dickens but diluted and cheapened in the transition...Since this is a musical, the score is the biggest disappointment...Off-rhymes have become increasingly acceptable in Top 40 realms, but only come across as lazy in a period piece such as Finding Neverland...They can organize '90s power ballads but not imbue them with anything that clings to the memory once the last full notes fade.
The Broadway Finding Neverland is swift-moving, playful, and appealing to children. This production is more extravagant than its American premiere last summer in Cambridge...This is not to say that Finding Neverland, to switch metaphors of movement, remains consistently airborne. The music and lyrics, by Gary Barlow...are redolent of pop-chart uplift and fail to contribute to character development. No matter how many emotionally effective touches the actors and their director, Diane Paulus, provide, the evening keeps returning to those mostly forgettable tunes. The lapses are especially apparent because this is, at heart, a show about artistic inspiration...the show's simplest moments, from Peter Pan itself, prove more entrancing than the giant, high-flying whirligig that's been built around them.
Director Diane Paulus coaxes compelling character portrayals. But the work fails to live up to the story's promise. Sure, there are lovely sprinklings of golden fairy dust and actors who take flight. But the music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy...too often lean towards syrupy ballads riddled with clichés...Morrison's Scottish accent sometimes flags and his presence in romantic scenes can seem a little under-energized. Still, there's more depth to his singing voice than one might expect from his TV role, and he has a fine rapport with the children...Gemme, as the serious-minded Peter who needs to find his childlike sense of play again, is especially moving and sings with strength and purity.
One can't fault the know-how of director Diane Paulus, a proven hit-maker with revivals (Hair, Pippin), here marking her first original Broadway musical. The tale is of how an unhappily married Barrie (a bearded, convincingly Scottish-accented Morrison) came upon the widowed Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Hampshire's Laura Michelle Kelly, in shimmering voice) and her four young sons. It gives audiences the back story of sorts to Peter Pan in much the same way as the musical Wicked functions as a prequel to The Wizard of Oz.
Clap if you believe in brand names...Neither Mr. Grammer nor the show's leading man, Matthew Morrison...appear wholly invested in their performances. But that's O.K. Their mere presences do most of the work for them...The stage version of "Finding Neverland" is no replica of the film, though it might have been better if it were. Instead, it heightens the screenplay's sentimentality, tidy psychologizing and life-affirming messages by thickening their syrup and corn quotients in ways presumably deemed palatable to theatergoing children and their parents...Every song...vaguely reminds you of some recording you have heard in the background of your life...I'm assuming the theory is that high volume will obliterate our awareness that this music is fatally ersatz. But there's no disguising the feeling that almost every element of the production has a secondhand, synthetic quality: the dialogue, the jerky choreography (by Mia Michaels), the jokes, the anachronistic depiction of the show people who put on Barrie's plays.
Finding Neverland purports to be historical: the true tale of how Barrie, inspired by his dealings with the family of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, created the boy who wouldn't grow up. It also purports to be a singing-dancing family entertainment. It winds up being neither...What's accurate -- perhaps the only thing -- is that Barrie acknowledged the Davies brood as his muses for Peter Pan...On this slender foundation Finding Neverland...builds an enormous superstructure of trite psychology...Finding Neverland demonstrates about as much insight into creativity borne of loss as a Facebook memorial candle. Even if everything in it were profound and true, it would still be a mess, suffering as it does from confusion (or willfulness) about what makes a musical a musical. In good ones, songs are not decorations applied interchangeably to the exterior of a story, like gift-wrap. They are the gift. Here, they seem to be recycled from a different package entirely...More attention has been lavished on the show's tricks than its logic.
Bombastic and exhausting, the show confuses childishness with an affinity for the child inside...good luck to it, if only this family-friendly musical...didn't work so strenuously for its meager ounce or two of charm...the show does have a heart-stopping death scene that's both moving and visually spectacular in its bewitching stagecraft and its elegant knitting together of imagery and theme. But the two hours-plus leading up to that moment, more often than not, are a chore...On the plus side, the expected patchwork signs of a Frankenstein's monster are not apparent. The show is fairly much of a piece, even if there's scant cohesion to the new score by Take That frontman Gary Barlow and Brit songwriter Eliot Kennedy, which weaves cloying platitudes into numbers that run from generic pop to bad theatrical pastiche...At the core of the show are sensitive, naturalistic performances from Morrison and Kelly, two accomplished musical-theater actors who sketch their characters' mutual yearnings and sorrows in delicate strokes, at times finding sincerity even in the most hackneyed lyrics...there's nonetheless no convincing argument here that a Finding Neverland musical was ever an artistically valid idea.
Manic, childish applause might cure the poisoned fairy Tinker Bell, but it's not medicine enough for Finding Neverland, the awkward, garish and manipulative musical...Show-doctored into a state of shrill mediocrity, the patient can barely walk, let alone fly...This being a family musical competing with the superior Wicked, Matilda and others, nonexistent drama has been drummed up (along with the volume, in Jonathan Deans's oppressive sound design) to justify two acts about a successful writer's new project and his crush on a sickly widow. Some of the cartoonish overacting and second-act plucking of heartstrings might be forgiven if the score were enchanting, but Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy's tunes (a mix of Britpop and pseudo-music-hall) are generic and burdened by cheap, trite lyrics. When the brightest element in Diane Paulus's tacky staging is Kelsey Grammer as a curmudgeonly producer, you know it's time to get the hook.
Director Paulus keeps throwing in magic tricks and storybook set changes, but no amount of illusionism can make the songs any better or the script and style seem any more definite. "Don't lose faith," Sylvia comforts Barrie. "You'll get there." Finding Neverland tries to find the way - second star to the right and straight on till morning - but it never quite arrives.