Practically everyone on earth knows the tale of “Peter Pan” (or “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”), but most probably aren’t aware of the real life story between playwright J.M. Barrie and the family who prompted the ageless classic’s original inspiration. However, that’s where “Finding Neverland” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre comes in, which is based on both the Academy Award-winning movie of the same name and the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan.”
“Finding Neverland” is an ideal pick for families to catch together over the holidays, though it can also resonate with really anyone looking to tap back into their childlike imagination as they seek to attain their adult aspirations.
This particular adaptation is loaded with an all-star team behind the scenes, including Tony-winning director Diane Paulus (“Pippin,” “Hair”), a book by James Graham, music and lyrics by Gary Barlow (Take That) and Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Eliot Kennedy (Spice Girls, Bryan Adams), plus choreography by Emmy-winner winner Mia Michaels (“So You Think You Can Dance,” Cirque du Soleil’s “Delirium”). While those acclaimed touches are evident throughout “Finding Neverland,” the cast led by Kevin Kern (J.M. Barrie), Christine Dwyer (Sylvia), Tom Hewitt (Charles/Captain James Hook) and Joanna Glushak (Mrs. du Maurier) does much of the heavy lifting and appear to have nearly as much fun as the rambunctious Llewelyn Davies children (whose parts are shared between several young and energetic actors).
And what a blast this colorful show about trying to hold back the hands of time turns out to be, though it also boasts almost as many poignant and bittersweet scenes, all stemming from the root of Barrie’s desperate attempt to write a hit show after a slump. Despite initially envisioning another adult-themed storyline, a chance meeting in the park with the four boys and their widowed mother allows him to unlock a previously discarded imagination where fairies fly, pirates loom, mermaids emerge and average kids can be heroes.
Given the creator’s more proper track record, his stuffy wife, ulcer-bearing producer and ultra-serious cast all think he’s gone absolutely bananas, but after finally meeting with the youngsters and being convinced to cast aside all their adult inhibitions, they eventually come on board. While everything appears to be back up and running professionally, the main characters’ love lives encounter a tumultuous shake-up, and even when tensions appear to be settling, the primary family is dealt with another unthinkable blow.
Nonetheless, with the hopeful spirit of “Peter Pan” helping guide their steps during the unforeseen trauma, Barrie and the boys pick up the pieces of their brokenness and figuratively fly to the heights of their grandest dreams. With all that in mind, “Finding Neverland” is an ideal pick for families to catch together over the holidays, though it can also resonate with really anyone looking to tap back into their childlike imagination as they seek to attain their adult aspirations.