DAD REVIEW: ‘Finding Neverland’ Delights at the Academy of Music
The musical, part of the Broadway Philadelphia series, runs through November 26.
Families have delighted in the wonderful stories of Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, for over a century. J.M. Barrie’s classic tale of pirates, Lost Boys, mermaids, and, of course, fairies has been adapted for stage and screen multiple times over the years. Barrie’s inspiration for these stories, a remarkable friendship with a widow and her four young boys, is the subject of Finding Neverland, a Broadway musical currently on tour throughout the country, and at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia from November 21 to November 26.
The show begins with Barrie dealing with the failure of his last effort as a playwright, and visiting London’s Kensington Gardens for inspiration to write a new play. While there, he meets a family of boys playing pirate with their mother, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. The boys’ youthful energy and imagination trigger in Barrie a desire to write a totally new and original play.
Barrie’s idea of a play centered around children and their stories runs into a series of skeptics: his theatrical promoter, the actors in the troupe, and even his wife. Barrie is forced to decide whether to press on, and bring his vision to fruition, or give up. Along the way, we are introduced to the origin of the most iconic characters from Peter Pan, including Captain Hook, Tinker Bell, and Peter himself.
At the same time, the story also explores the growing closeness of the relationship between Barrie and Sylvia, as well as Barrie’s bond with one of the boys, Peter, who has taken the death of their father the hardest. Ultimately, the story concludes with the successful debut of Peter Pan, and the personal aftermath for the characters.
This being an off-Broadway production, the musical component of the performance is the most important one, and the performance did not disappoint. The singing performances were excellent and enthusiastic, particularly by the four children playing the Llewelyn Davies boys, and merge well with the inventive set design to create a truly immersive experience.
If you enjoy musical theater, there is something for all ages in this production. That said, the show is probably best enjoyed by children ages 9 and up, who will be able to understand and pull together the humor as well as some of the more adult themes (including the death of parents and divorce).
Finding Neverland runs through November 26 at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia. Visit the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ website for more details and ticket information.
Photograph by Jeremy Daniel, courtesy of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.