Alyssa Audrey Taylor ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Finding Neverland is a spectacular show. From start to finish it is a beautiful story with wonderful acting, music, choreography, lighting, set design and sense of imagination. The actors obviously have great fun, really bringing the characters and songs to life. It’s as if they were born to play these roles. The play was just that – it seemed as if they were playing and they enjoyed it.
Finding Neverland, based off the movie of the same name as well as the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan, follows famed playwright JM Barrie (Jeremy Jordan), who’s latest play has failed. Producer Charles Frohman (Michael McGrath), implores Barrie to write a new play, one that has to be good, or they will have to part ways. One day, while gathering inspiration in Kensington Gardens with his dog, Porthos (Thayne Jasperson), he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Laura Michelle Kelly), a young widow, and her four sons: George (Sawyer Nunes), Jack (Hayden Signoretti), Michael (Alex Dreier), and Peter (Aiden Gemme). Together they unlock each other’s imaginations, and help each other get through their lives, amid the protests of Mary Barrie (Jeana De Waal), James’ wife, and Sylvia’s mother Mrs. du Maurier (Carolee Carmello).
The script was brought to life by the music, acting, and design, but it was clear that the script was well-written from the start of the play. Using humor as well as drama, playwright James Graham brings each of the characters to life, giving the background characters enough personality so they’re funny and developed, and fleshing out the main characters so that by the end of the play the audience knows and feels for the main characters.
This was only helped by the acting. The actors gave the characters a full range of emotions and succeeded at making the audience believe what the characters were believing, see what they were seeing, and feel what they were feeling. Jeremy Jordan and Laura Michelle Kelly shined at their roles as Barrie and Llewelyn Davies, bring a surprising amount of depth and humor to their roles. Aiden Gemme stole all the scenes he was in as Peter, a boy struggling with balancing grief and being a child. It’s safe to say there’s never a dull moment in the show.
The actors all had wonderful voices, and the music, written by British songwriters Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, was amazing. The songwriters primarily work in pop music, and the music reflects that. The music had hints of pop, mixed with melodies that sounded reminiscent of Wicked and other great musicals of the 2000’s. The songs were infectious, each of them filled with gusto and all ending with loud ovations and whistles. Some standouts were “Believe” performed by Barrie, Sylvia and the Llewelyn Davies Boys, “Neverland” performed by Barrie, “Stronger” performed by James Hook and Barrie, “Play” performed by the Acting Troupe, Charles Frohman, and Sylvia, “We’re All Made Of Stars” performed by the Llewelyn Davies Boys, and the emotional “Neverland Reprise” performed by the entire cast. The music moved the audience, and the actors hit each note (the boys in particular were AMAZING), both musical and emotional.
The set and lighting design was brilliant. Mixing elements of Peter Pan (The clock! Pixie dust!) with realistic elements, the design stole the show. Projections, Illusions, beautiful backgrounds, and set pieces: they all added an extra element of magical realism that elevated the production. It was beautiful and encaptured the tone of the show and captivated the audience.
Finding Neverland was a beautiful show, that told a story with hints of magical realism. From start to finish, there was never a dull moment, and the hard work and effort put into the show shined through. Finding Neverland will make you believe in magic, yourself and the power of your creative imagination.
Finding Neverland is playing at the A.R.T. now until September 28, 2014 at the Loeb Drama Center.
Overall Grade: A+