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Finding Neverland ~ The National Theatre

Jordan Wright
February 27, 2019

Melody Rose in Finding Neverland ~ Photo Credit Jeremy Daniel

 Finding Neverland flew into the National Theatre last night, straight from the second star on the right.  As the second-oldest theater in America, the National continues to provide us with the Broadway shows we are dying to see plus some that have made their out-of-town debuts right here.  Seeing a big show on this smaller stage in this grand historic theater makes it feel as if you’re right on stage with the actors.

Ruby Gibbs in Finding Neverland ~ Photo Credit Jeremy Daniel

This supremely delightful musical takes its cue from the life of author J. M. Barrie and his inspiration for the beloved children’s book, “Peter Pan”.  It’s an adventure suitable for all ages – that is if you still believe in fairies.  And we do!  Written by James Graham with music and lyrics by the composing duo of Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy, it is chockful of sweet ballads, rousing Irish jigs and toe-tapping chorus numbers.  This song-writing team is solid gold.  Barlow has sold over 45 million records with his pop group Take That and is co-writer on the popular musical The Band.  Kennedy is a Grammy-Award winning musician/singer/songwriter who has had number-one hits with the Spice Girls, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin and many more.  Altogether, Finding Neverland has twenty original numbers.

The Company of Finding Neverland ~ Photo Credit Jeremy Daniel

Kensington Gardens is where Barrie, a playwright with writer’s block, meets Sylvia, a widow with four boys – George, Peter (of course), Jack and Michael.  Trapped in a loveless, childless marriage with his imperious wife, Mary, he soon becomes enchanted with Sylvia and her lively brood, providing fuel to the boys’ imaginations as he recaptures his own inner child with a script heartily disapproved by his dyspeptic producer, Charles Frohman, and a stubborn-minded cast who refuse to play children’s roles.

The Company of Finding Neverland ~ Photo Credit Jeremy Daniel

Not to be compared with Peter Pan, the 1954 musical with Mary Martin who flew and crowed her way into Broadway history books, this fantasy adventure has equal amounts of appeal.  Wonderfully engaging choreography by Mia Michaels, choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance and Cirque de Soleil’s Delirium.  Michaels has choreographed for Madonna and Prince and is a three-time Emmy Award-winner.  For this production, rather than flights aided by ceiling wire, cast members lift their mates as they ‘soar’ around Neverland.  The children (and the adults!) around me were gobsmacked with glee.

Jeff Sullivan and Seth Erdley in Finding Neverland ~ Photo Credit Jeremy Daniel

A large banquet table proves to be a hilarious hiding place for the guests when napkins fly in Barrie’s posh home in “The Dinner Party” and “The Circus of Your Mind” that plays out to the sounds of a calliope as it delves into Mary and James’ private lives.  At last, Barrie gets the theater’s troupe to recall their childhood imaginations in “Play”, a wildly animated  tavern scene that brings all the imaginary characters together dancing and singing.

The Company of Finding Neverland ~ Photo Credit Jeremy Daniel

A nine-piece band, beautiful voices, adorable children, pirates! and clever projections (How do they create the stardust? Asking for a friend.) is guaranteed to keep this magical musical close to your heart.

Highly recommended for all ages.  Hurry!  It’s only in town till Sunday.

Through March 3rd at the National Theater, Washington DC – 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004.  For tickets and information visit www.TheNationalDC.org or call 202 628-6161.

With Jeff Sullivan as J. M. Barrie; Ruby Gibbs as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies; Ashley Edler as Mary Barrie; Paul Thiemann as Albert; Conor McGiffin as Charles Frohman and Captain James Hook; Michael Luongo as Lord Cannan; Emmanuelle Zeesman as Mrs. Du Maurier; Joshua William Green as Mr. Henshaw; Spenser Micetich as Mr. Cromer; Kelsey Seaman as Miss Jones; Adrien Swenson as Miss Bassett; Melody Rose as Peter Pan; Marie Choate as Wendy; Daniel S. Hayward as Captain Hook.

Llewelyn Children played by Brody Bett (Jack/Michael); Seth Erdley (George/Peter/Jack); Caleb Reese Paul (George/Peter/Jack); Peter Schoeller (George/Peter/Jack); Josiah Smothers (Jack/Michael); and Ethan Stokes (George/Peter/Jack).

Original Direction by Diane Paulus; Direction Recreated by Mia Walker; Orchestrations by Simon Hale; Scenic Design by Scott Pask, Lighting Design by Kenneth Posner, Costume Design by Suttirat Larlarb, and Sound Design by Shannon Slaton.

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