While it’s not a traditional Christmas story, “Finding Neverland” is an enchanting story of family, love and imagination that makes a suitable holiday alternative for those tired of nutcrackers and Tiny Tim.
Based on the 2004 film, “Finding Neverland” was turned into a musical and debuted on stage in Leicester, England, in 2012. With music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy and book by James Graham, it tells the story of how writer J.M. Barrie found the inspiration for his greatest literary creation– Peter Pan.
Set in London at the start of the 1900s, Barrie (Kevin Kern) is working on his latest play and decides to do some writing at a park. While there he encounters Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Christine Dwyer) and her four boys (the boys are played by different children throughout the show’s run; opening night featured Ben Krieger as Peter, Finn Faulconer as George, Mitchell Wray as Jack and Jordan Cole as Michael).
Three of the boys are rambunctious fireballs but Peter, who shares with Barrie an interest in writing, is still withdrawn over the death of the boys’ father. As the writer spends more time with the family, Peter comes out of his shell.
Inspired by the boys’ energy and imagination, Barrie tosses his current work and writes a tale about pirates and fairies and a boy who won’t grow up — much to the dismay of theater owner Charles Frohman (Tom Hewitt) and his stable of actors.
“Finding Neverland” is a heartwarming story if not a great musical. The music is the show’s biggest weakness. Although the orchestra is fine and the actors perform with enthusiasm, the songs just aren’t that memorable. “Play,” a number in which Frohman and the actors decide to embrace their inner child in order to perform “Peter Pan,” is the show’s musical highlight.
A decent story and cast make up for the musical failings, helped along greatly by clever set design and the use of video along with other visual trickery to help the show come alive. The show finishes in a visual and emotional whirlwind as the cast bring the show to the Davies’ home for a special performance.
Finding Neverland plays through Dec. 18 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/