Finding Neverland | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

This production will make you laugh, make you wonder, and most of all, make you believe.

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The Fabulous Fox Theatre welcomes the first national tour of Finding Neverland to the Gateway City. The production marks the halfway point of the 2016-2017 U.S. Bank Broadway Series. Following up on the heels of the successful (and much talked about) production of Fun Home, I was excited to see if Finding Neverland could keep the magic going for The Fox. Fortunately for myself and the eager audience, we were in store for an enchanting musical treat.

The story focuses on J.M. Barrie (Kevin Kern) who is experiencing a sort of mental roadblock as he attempts to write a new play for a local theatre troupe. As fate would have it, he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Christine Dwyer) with her four boys in a local park. Sylvia is a fan of the playwright, but points out that several of his works are derivative of other stories. Encouraging him to move out of his comfort zone, she and her boys reignite Barrie’s imagination and inspire him to write one of the most iconic stories, “Peter Pan.”

While Finding Neverland is accessible to children—full of colorful characters and hilarious dialogue—I particularly loved how the story spoke to me as a writer. Most writers are insecure about their own work and often need those around them to kick them in the pants. The one storyline that spoke to me the most was how Barrie created the character of Hook. It’s easy to write about sunshine and rainbows, but in order for a story to have character, a writer has to delve into his own dark side to see what lurks in the shadows. Hook, along with the whole host of larger than life characters, all reside in Barrie, and Sylvia and her boys are just the catalyst to bring them to life.

Speaking of larger than life characters, Finding Neverland has an abundance of them. Tom Hewitt’s performance as theatre producer Charles Frohman was biting and commanding. He delivered one of my favorite lines of the night: “Children are like soufflés, pointless until they are raised.” I can’t wait to spit that one out at a holiday party. Joanna Glushak was serving Dowager Countess in her biting role as Mrs. du Maurier. She serves as a reminder that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Every line out of this talented actress’ mouth was positively poisonous and had me hanging on every word. Dwelvan David, as Mr. Henshaw, made the most of his role with his hilarious performance. Any entertainer who can act his way through a dog suit has my respect and adoration.

Both Kern and Dwyer were positively entrancing in the lead roles. Both actors gave solid vocal performances, and the duo achieved incredible stage chemistry. I commend them for a job well done. However, the cast members who impressed me the most were the four child actors who portrayed Sylvia’s sons. Normally, child actors annoy me. They seem to overcompensate just to act alongside their adult counterparts. They over enunciate and play their roles much too straight-laced. But in Finding Neverland, the roles played by these boys were exactly what I would expect from children. Carefree and playful, these boys stole my heart. While there are seven boys touring with the company, on this night, Jordan Cole as Michael; Mitchell Wray as Jack; Finn Faulconer as George; and Ben Krieger as Peter all deserved the highest praise of the evening. While Finn Faulconer is the coolest name I have ever heard for an actor, keep an eye on Ben Krieger—this boy is going to be a massive star in the future.

Although the cast was outstanding, the musical numbers were equally as fabulous. When the entire cast assembled—decked out in breathtaking costumes by Suttirat Anne Larlarb—they were a compelling theatrical force. Numbers like “My Imagination,” “Circus of Your Mind,” and “Stronger” were absolutely mind-blowing—not only were they vocally outstanding, but choreographically, these productions were emotionally overwhelming.

The show’s special effects were spellbinding. Where most shows miss the mark by overusing video, Finding Neverland achieved brilliance. From the drifting clouds to the onstage whirlwind, all of the FX personnel—and there are many of them—deserve a standing ovation. They caused me to suspend my (cynical) disbelief for the entire production and that is a feat in and of itself.

Finding Neverland is a magical exploration into the world of imagination. This production will make you laugh, make you wonder, and most of all, make you believe. In a time when the whole world appears to be going crazy, Finding Neverland transports you to a world in which you may never want to ever leave. I mean, you never grow old there—don’t threaten me with a good time. | Jim Ryan

P.S.: Seeing as this is the time of giving, the cast of Finding Neverland is collecting donations for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. So have one less double soy cappuccino and throw some coins toward this very necessary charity.

Finding Neverland runs through December 18. For show times and ticket prices, please visit  www.fabulousfox.com.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

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