‘Finding Neverland’ is pure magic

By on August 21, 2019

“Young boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older, and then before you know it, they’re grown.” – J. M. Barrie

J.M. Barrie, played by Mark Bacon, and Captain James Hook, played by Kirk Lawrence, face off in to eye in a scene from “Finding Neverland” at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater. (Photos by Blaine Shahan)

As far as musicals go, “Finding Neverland” is a relative toddler. It made its Broadway debut only four years ago. The musical is based upon a play, “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” and its 2004 film adaptation, “Finding Neverland,” which starred Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

The origin of the plot goes further back in history, of course. “Finding Neverland” begins in 1903 and focuses on Scottish writer J. M. Barrie, his platonic relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and his close friendship with her sons, George, Jack, Peter and Michael, who inspire the classic play “Peter Pan,” or “The Boy Who Never Grew Up.”

His most recent show was a flop and Barrie is tasked by theater owner Charles Frohman to come up with a hit — and pronto — or else! Meeting the Davies clan couldn’t have come at a better time.

The boys, with the urging of their dreamer of a mother, reacquaint Barrie with what it’s like to be a child… to play. Various adventures and characters Barrie meets along the way lead to the writing of the timeless “Peter Pan.”

It takes some time to get Frohman’s theatrical troupe to embrace their own inner children and bring the show to life. But when they do, it’s transcendent.

I’m not the type of person who likes to give the entire plot of a show away, and there’s so much more going on in “Finding Neverland” that I feel theatergoers should discover on their own.

It’s a beautiful story that strikes a chord with young and old alike. Stay young at heart. Never forget how to play. Always try to see the world through the eyes of a child, and it will never lose its magic.

Sylvia, played by Josephine Florence Cooper, and J. M. Barre, played by Mark Bacon, pose in a scene from “Finding Neverland” at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater.

The show

I always comment about the lighting at Dutch Apple. I can’t help it. I like sparkly things. But seriously, the lighting and scenery for “Finding Neverland” were top notch.

Layers of sheer curtains and projectors were combined to give London a rich and beautiful nighttime skyline. Costuming and lighting combined to give children the illusion of flying without actually leaving the ground. And wait until you see how they handle Peter’s fairy sidekick!

The music was all new to me. “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground,” a powerful ballad duetted by Barrie and Peter, had me tearing up. There were several powerful and memorable all-hands-on-deck production numbers: “We Own the Night,” “Stronger,” and “Neverland.”

Standout performances came from several of the actors. Kirk Lawrence, who played both theater owner Charles Frohman and Captain James Hook was equally kooky and terrifying Dylan Jacob Loraw, who played Peter the evening I saw the performance, is really going places. We’ll see big things from him in the future, I’m sure.

You’re probably tired of hearing me talk about Timothe Bittle, but I’m going to do it anyway. He is such a treat to watch and hear, and even though his role as Mr. Henshaw wouldn’t be considered major, he nails it in a major way.

And the Oscar goes to… Oscar! Oscar, an eight-month-old pooch, originally from Ephrata, according to his bio, plays Porthos, family pet to the Davies family, in the show. The critics must agree with me that he stole the show, because Oscar is headed out onto the national “Finding Neverland” tour in 2020.

So, is “Finding Neverland” for children? I wouldn’t say no, but I definitely feel that it’s a plotline and message geared towards adults. There are children in the show, and some very madcap scenes, but the humor, message and historical setting will most likely be more appreciated by grown-ups — and their inner children.

To purchase tickets for “Finding Neverland,” which come with Dutch Apple’s all-you-can-eat buffet, visit dutchapple.com or call the box office at 717-898-1900. Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre is located at 510 Centerville Road, Lancaster.

Features Editor Melissa Hunnefield reviews theater productions in Lancaster County and beyond. She welcomes comments and questions at mhunnefield.eph@lnpnews.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *