BWW Review: FINDING NEVERLAND at The Flynn Center For Performing Arts Needed To Connect More
On Tuesday evening, The Flynn Center for Performing Arts hosted its fourth Broadway touring show of the season, Finding Neverland. From the first hint of Tinkerbell arriving before the curtain, this performance promised magic, imagination, and a tug on your heartstrings. However, in the end, the story itself does not fully deliver on its promise.
All the elements of a great and submersive musical were there, but somehow they did not coalesce into the escape into Neverland that an audience is hoping to find. With stunning choreography, hard-working actors, and a set that shifted easily between whimsical and realistic at a moment's notice, it is hard to find fault in the play as it was performed. It is in the music and how the story itself unfolded that makes this a visually beautiful musical that doesn't quite connect.
The choreography has all the hallmarks of well-known choreographer Mia Michaels, her contemporary style, and signature moves are especially evident in the ensemble dance numbers. This more modern twist on choreography in a historical setting ends up working well in this performance and dovetails nicely with the use of projection and multimedia in the set design.
From the moment J.M. Barrie, performed by MARK BACON, belts out his 'I want' song in "My Imagination", the story embarks on a tale about a man trying to once again find his inspiration to write. In the setting of Kensington Gardens in London, his chance meeting with the Llewelyn Davies family, a jovial crowd of four boys and their mother (and his eventual love interest) Sylvia, played by JOSEPHINE Florence Cooper, spur the inspiration in him that he needs. Together, they create a world where believing, imagination, playfulness, and doing what is right for you rather than what society dictates is the name of the game.
Barrie turns this make-believe world into the play he is under pressure to complete for his boss, Charles Frohman, played by KIRK LAWRENCE. It is the kind of story that could inspire any audience. Yet, the challenges, the heartache, and the story arc don't dive deep enough for the audience to fully invest themselves and go along for the ride.
The quirky humor is childlike and fun, the children are adorable and earnest in their acting, and every time Barrie's dog, Porthos, played by a fluffy and well-trained Goldendoodle named OSCAR, arrives on stage, the audience melts at the cuteness.
Overall, the music and lyrics are not as memorable as one might expect. However, the one showstopping song that brings a lot of depth and interest to the story is the number that closed out ACT I, "Stronger" played by BACON as Barrie, as well as LAWRENCE as Barrie's alter-ego Captain James Hook, along with an ensemble of pirates.
Overall, this was a visually interesting, well-choreographed musical, performed by hard-working actors. The story and the music simply needed to stretch more than it did to make the deep connections that an audience is hoping for when they go to the theater.
Photo Credit: Morgan Donohue