Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Finding Neverland" and The Lost Boys Find A Home On Broadway - Audience Response Trumps The Critics

I am writing this review of "Finding Neverland" on the day in which this musical failed to received a single Tony Award nomination.  I fear that many of the critics and Tony voters were not able to calibrate their sextants and find the "second star to the right - and straight on 'til morning."  I think they missed seeing the show that I have fallen in love with, and I am unashamed in writing in praise of this remarkable musical.

Before you read much further, you may wish to consult my review of the A.R.T. production of "Finding Neverland" that played to record-breaking audiences last summer in Cambridge.  There have been significant changes since the show has moved to Broadway, but many of my comments and observations about the show remain germane.

Blog Review of the Cambridge Production of "Finding Neverland"

I will assume that you have now read my review of the earlier iteration of the play.  Allow me summarize the most significant changes as the show moved from Cambridge to NYC:

  • There are dramtict cast changes.  Matthew Morrison replaces Jeremy Jordan as J.M. Barrie, Kelsey Grammar replaces Michael McGrath as Producer Charles Frohman/Captain Hook.  Porthos is now an actual canine, rather than a human actor.  Teal Wicks now plays Mary Barrie.
  • The opening number and the closing number have been changed - for the better.
  • A quirky scene early in Act I that showed Mary Barrie's OCD tendencies has been cut.
  • New songs have been written for the four Llewelyn Davies boys, further highlighting their talents.
How do I feel about the changes?  For the most part I agree with them, for they make for a cleaner and tighter story.  Matthew Morrison is a perfectly fine J.M. Barrie, but that role will always belong - in my mind and in my heart - to the incomparable Jeremy Jordan who brought a warmth and vulnerability to the role that is not always in evidence in Mr. Morrison's interpretation of the role. Who can argue with casting Kelsey Grammer, who seems to being having a wonderful time as Captain Hook.

Laura Michele Kelly and Carolee Carmello continue to be luminous in their mother and daughter roles of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and Mrs. Du Maurier.

The four Llewelyn Davies boys came intact as a package from the Cambridge production, with the addition of a few actors to spell them for the eight-show-a-week endurance test that is a Broadway schedule.  The new faces are Jackson Demott Hill, Noah Hinsdale and Christopher Paul Richard. These newcomers to the cast have been added to the pioneering quartet of Alex Drier, Aidan Gemme, Sawyer Nunes and Hayden Signoretti.  These young actors do not seem at all intimidated to have made the leap to the big stage of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, and they work the crowd at the Stage Door with the confidence of Broadway veterans.  Selfies, screaming girls and autographs abound.

Cast of "Finding Neverland"
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

I have a good friend who is a Tony Award winning producer as well as a director, writer and actor. After seeing "Finding Neverland," my friend wrote me and said: "Diane Paulus is a genius!"  I would agree enthusiastically with his assessment.  In the case of this musical, she has assembled disparate elements - including composers and a choreographer new to Broadway - and from those parts has fashioned a cohesive narrative of a classical story that still has the power to move all except those whose hearts have been hardened.  This show moves me each time I see it.  My own reaction to the musical and my observation of the enthusiastic response from each audience I have been part of  leads me to the conclusion that this is a show that is "critic proof."  I believe it will run for a long while on Broadway and touch the hearts of those who live in NYC and who travel there to be enchanted.

Clap if you also believe - in the power of story and fairy tales well told!  And click on the link below to book your ticket to Neverland!

A Harvard professor has weighed in on the power of this musical to tell a vibrant story that is part myth and part dramatized biography.  Her Op-Ed piece for Variety is linked below.

Variety Op-Ed Piece about "Finding Neverland" by Harvard Professor



Finding Neverland Website

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