Review: ‘Finding Neverland’ is simply lovely

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by MIKE CHAIKEN

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

“Finding Neverland,” which was performed Feb. 26, at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino until Sunday is a lovely show. It’s gentle and chaste.

This should not be a surprise for a show set in Victorian London.

The music is pretty. The story is inspiring. The characters are engaging. Their internal and external conflicts are relatable,

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However, although the show is about J.M. Barrie, who wrote “Peter Pan” for the British stage– and although the show features children performers in key roles, Captain Hook and his buccaneer henchmen do make cameos, and Peter does pop his head out in two key noments, “Finding Neverland” is not a “Peter Pan” story.

“Finding Neverland” is about a family. It’s about a writer. And it’s about the creative process that led to the concoction of the Boy Who Never Grew Up.

Simply put, “Finding Neverland” is much more complex than a Disney full-length cartoon.

So, although “Finding Neverland” is family friendly, some parents may take heed that the show is not necessarily family fare –  especially for younger ones who may be anxious to see Peter and Tinkerbell.

However, there are plenty of wonderful performances throughout the night in this professional touring production.

Mark Bacon, as J.M. Barrie, was fabulous. Although his character finds a way to relate to children, and allows his inner child-free, Bacon still maintains the bearing of an adult. He is still a father figure rather than a peer to the Llewellyn Davies clan he befriends. It also is a joy to watch as his demeanor is positively transformed as he frees himself from the imposed bonds of social convention. And more importantly, it’s fun that just as he is transformed, he is able to transform others in a positive way.

Josephine Florence Cooper as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies is engaging and charming as the woman who wins Barrie’s heart and sets the stage for his reinvigorated imagination. Her vocals were effortless and uplifting.

Kirk Lawrence was great fun as the curmudgeonly theater owner Charles Frohman and the rambunctious Capt. Hook. As Frohman, Lawrence manages to find a nice balance between overbearing boss and caring mentor to Barrie. As Hook, Lawrence provides just the right amount of overacting so that the character is engaging without stealing the show from the character of Barrie. Lawrence consistently brought energy to the proceedings.

Musically, thanks to the music and lyrics of Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, “Finding Neverland” is sumptuous. The show has some pretty moments, such as the uplifting duet by Bacon and Cooper in “Neverland. There are fun moments such as “Hook” sung by Lawrence sung as his darker persona and accompanied by some fine choreography from Mia Michaels. “Circus of Your Mind,” sung by Barrie’s primary protagonists, also was great fun.

And the leads weren’t the only delights of the production. There was great chemistry between all of the ensemble players.

All in all, “Finding Neverland” is an entertaining evening at the theater.

I give the show four out of four stars.