Finding Neverland (American Rep) OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Kayana Szymczak





Opening Night:
August 13, 2014
September 28, 2014

Theater: American Repertory Theater / 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138


Based on the Miramax motion picture by David Magee and the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee, Finding Neverland follows the relationship between playwright J. M. Barrie and the family that inspired Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, one of the most beloved stories of all time. Staged by A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus with music by U.K. pop sensation Gary Barlow (Take That) and choreography by Emmy Award-winner Mia Michaels ("So You Think You Can Dance"), this new musical explores the power of imagination to open up new worlds, and the pressures put upon those worlds by the inevitability of growing up.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Finding Neverland (American Rep)

    Fantasies Taxiing for Takeoff ‘Finding Neverland’ Opens at American Repertory Theater

    Ben Brantley

    August 14, 2014: As long-suffering authorities like the Wright Brothers and Icarus could have told you, becoming airborne is never easy. That’s the lesson being contemplated, on several levels, by Finding Neverland, the ever-evolving, highly determined Broadway-bound children’s musical that opened on Wednesday night at the American Repertory Theater. The principal character of this show, the Peter Pan-creating author James M. Barrie, insists that all a so-called miracle requires is the will to believe, and that includes sending earthbound children into orbit. (The word “Believe” gleams with imperative, echo-chamber luminosity below the title on the show’s posters.) And a lovely young widow — Barrie’s platonic soul mate, as it happens — is heard telling her children that birds can fly because they have perfect faith that they will be able to. But the practical world (cue the boos and hisses) has a discouraging word to add to such airiness. Making anything fly — especially a multimillion-dollar musical — demands expensive technology and months of preparation and fine-tuning. Of course, a little faith that it is all truly worthwhile never hurts. It seems safe to say that Harvey Weinstein has that faith, and you can envision his homes being filled with framed samplers extolling the importance of that virtue — well, perhaps of chutzpah, too. Ever since he steamrollered the lightweight Shakespeare in Love all the way to an Academy Award for best picture, Mr. Weinstein has developed a reputation as one of Hollywood’s most productively pushy players. Now he has trained his formidable powers of faith on a work of theater, and he’s already demonstrated that a little adversity along the way isn’t going to keep his baby from growing wings. Finding Neverland is based on a 2004 film of the same title, which was a Weinstein production.

  • VARIETY REVIEW OF Finding Neverland (American Rep)

    Sometimes wan and sometimes wonderful, this Broadway-bound new musical produced by Harvey Weinstein will need more theatrical magic if it wants to get audiences hooked

    Frank Rizzo

    August 14, 2014: The new play that J.M. Barrie is struggling to write — which would eventually become Peter Pan — in the Broadway-bound tuner Finding Neverland doesn’t come alive until he finds his villain in Captain Hook. The same can be said for the sometimes wan but sometimes wonderful new musical that is premiering at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. Until that moment, the family-friendly tuner, produced by A.R.T. in association with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein (who will make the show his first major theatrical project as lead producer when the production moves to Broadway) and based on Miramax’s 2004 film of the same name, is well-sung, occasionally charming and nicely staged — but bland. Finding Neverland still needs to find itself. It takes the soaring song that closes the first act — showcasing topliner Jeremy Jordan (“Smash”), who plays the introverted Scottish playwright with sweet affection and a dash of sexiness — to give the production a much needed lift as the protagonist finds his inner strength. It’s his “Let It Go” moment as he confronts his demons, as personified by Hook (Michael McGrath, who also plays Barrie’s producer Charles Frohman with vinegary relish).

  • HARVARD MAGAZINE REVIEW OF Finding Neverland (American Rep)

    The Peter Pan Myth, Reinvented

    August 14, 2014: The new musical theater production Finding Neverland, which opened to a sold-out house at the American Repertory Theater on August 13, extends the century-old mythology of Peter Pan. The saga of the boy who would not grow up, with its crocodiles, Captain Hook, and the fairy Tinker Bell, began onstage with the play Peter Pan, which opened in London in 1904. The ageless boy has been reincarnated countless times since, in a Disney film in 1953, on the Broadway stage with Mary Martin as Peter in 1954, by Stephen Spielberg in the 1991 movie Hook. In 2004, the film Finding Neverland mixed Pan’s story with that of his creator, Scottish author and playwright J.M. Barrie (1860-1937), played by Johnny Depp. The ART production—with a new score by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, book by James Graham, and direction by Tony-award winning Diane Paulus, the company’s artistic director—received an enthusiastic reception at the Loeb Drama Center, where it will run through September 28. It is scheduled to open on Broadway next March. (Finding Neverland also represents the first venture as a lead producer in theater for the distinguished film producer Harvey Weinstein, whose movies have won several Academy Awards, including the Best Picture for Shakespeare in Love.)

  • THE BOSTON GLOBE REVIEW OF Finding Neverland (American Rep)

    Standout performances elevate ART’s ‘Finding Neverland’

    Joel Brown

    August 14, 2014: Don’t come to Finding Neverland expecting to see Peter Pan and Wendy flying through the air. Director Diane Paulus and the other creators of the new musical are after a more earthbound kind of magic. Not that the headed-for-Broadway show, at the American Repertory Theater through Sept. 28, lacks for the bravura stagecraft that’s a staple of Paulus’s reign as ART artistic director. But the big, family-friendly show’s point is the way a childlike imagination can act as a balm for real-world pain. Set in London in 1904, Finding Neverland tells the story of how blocked playwright and unhappy husband J.M. Barrie gets his groove back with the help of the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons. Barrie reconnects with his inner child long enough to write Peter Pan, then — spoiler alert — mans up when tragedy strikes the family a second time. As Barrie and Sylvia, Jeremy Jordan (Newsies, TV’s “Smash”) and Laura Michelle Kelly sung terrifically and with heart in Wednesday’s opening night performance. Kelly’s big first-act solo number, “All That Matters,” and their second-act duet, “What You Mean to Me,” brought a roar of approval from the house.

  • THE ARTERY REVIEW OF Finding Neverland (American Rep)

    The Search For A Musical ‘Neverland’ Finds A Home At The A.R.T.

    Ed Siegel

    August 14, 2014: Producer Harvey Weinstein certainly got what he was looking for from Diane Paulus — a successful replanting of his movie Finding Neverland as a Broadway-bound musical. And the American Repertory Theater artistic director got something in return — a chance to show, as she did with Hair and Pippin, that she brings a remarkable sense of brio and creativity to material that would be trite without such treatment. That doesn’t make Finding Neverland a fully fledged artistic success, if art is what you’re looking for at the A.R.T. Am I sounding like one of those snooty actors whom J.M. Barrie — or more precisely book writer James Graham — makes fun of in the musical, actors who want to play Richard III rather than Nana, the dog? I don’t mean to be. Finding Neverland (through Sept. 28 at the Loeb Drama Center) is an enjoyable musical, from start to finish. It’s well-cast, even better sung and marvelously choreographed by Mia Michaels. Scott Pask’s set design is an elegant mixture of realism and fantasy. There’s very little not to like, despite the feeling, somewhere in the midpoint of the 2 ½ hours, that you might want to shout, “OK, I get the point. We should be more like children and play more.”



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