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 “FINDING NEVERLAND”
IS MAGICAL

BY IRIDE APARICIO

PHOTOS BY JEREMY DANIEL

SAN JOSE, CA – As a musical, “FINDING NEVERLAND” may be described as  a  mind’s  journey which transports the audience, in songs, through different facets of the adults’ world, allowing us to experience: love, a broken heart,  work, frustrations, and pain, interwoven with facets  of the  children’s world: a world populated by mermaids, Indians, children, pirates, and a tiny sparkling  fairy called Tinker Bell,  that needs to be reassured, with hand claps from the audience, that  people believe in her.  

The story of  “FINDING NEVERLAND”   was first created and presented  in the Academy-Awards winner  “historical Fantasy”  drama  film of the same name written by DAVID MAGEE.  The script was based on the play “The man who was Peter Pan” written by ALLAN  KNEE, that was  based on the life of  Scottish playwright,  J. M. BARRIE, the man who created PETER PAN, (The child who would never grew up) and his platonic relationship with Sylvia Jewelyn Davis, the mother of  four boys: George, Jack, Peter and Michael.

The film earned several nominations at the 77th Academy Awards, including Best picture, and Best Actor for JOHNNY DEPP, for his portrayal of J.M. BARRIE.

The plot of the musical starts when playwright J.M. Barrie, (WILL RAY) is very frustrated because his previous play was a failure and he need to write a  play for his producer Charles Frohman (JOHN DAVIDSON). He does not know it yet, but his new play is going to be “Peter Pan,” a story that Barrie will start creating in his mind, after he learns to “see” the world, through the  the eyes of four children.

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Left, LAEL  Van KEUREN  as (Sylvia Llewelyn Davis) and  WILL RAY as  J.M.Barrie  (center) sit on a Park bench  with her  four  children holding balloons

His inspiration starts after he mets four children by chance, one morning,  when he was sitting at a park, trying to write. They were playing pirates, with each other, as their young beautiful  mother,  Sylvia Llewelyn Davis, (LAEL VAN KEUREN) was trying to control them. The four young actors who played the children on Press Opening night were:  Peter (CONNOR JAMESON CASEY) George (COLIN WHEELER) Jack (BERGMAN FREEDMAN) and Mike TYLER PATRICK HENNESSY)

As he continues observing these children at play, Barrie  begins creating in his mind, a completely different play than the one he had written before. In this new play, he also uses his memories of “a brother” who had died when he was a little boy and who Barrie’s mother had  worshiped all her life. Barrie used his brother to create the character of a boy, Peter Pan, who would not grow up. 

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The cast of “FINDING NEVERLAND”

One of the things that makes FINDING NEVERLAND  the musical,  with book by JAMES GRAHAM and Music and Lyrics by GARY BARLOW & ELIOT KENNEDY, outstanding however, are the lyrics, of its different songs which  move the story perfectly, and in character, making it a musical that is meant for children and adults. Because while the story, of FINDING NEVERLAND may be populated  by  fictional characters, starting with Peter himself who is a cocky boy who can fly, but is clumsy enough to easily lose “his shadow” and needed to be sewed back on his back by Wendy (MARY KATE HARTUNG)  The musical is filled with “fantasy” but its plot  has a deep philosophy,  

It is at a Low moment  in the plot when Captain Hook (ANTHONY FESTA) “jumps into the mind” of  J.M. Barrie  (RAY) who is feeling  defeated, and thinking that he can’t walk alone anymore, and calls him “Coward”  He informs Barrie that  he (Hook)  is really “his darker side”, the one  who lives in the shadows and prefers to hide.” and demands from Barrie  to stop living by the book (agreeing with everybody) and live by the hook  (fight for what he wants) if he ever wants to escape from the repressing  Edwardian England of his time.

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WILL RAY as J.M. BARRIE and ANTHONY FESTA as Captain HOOK

To have faith is to have wings” playwright Barrie later wrote in his notes, and in “FINDING NEVERLAND”  it is only after BARRIE regains his faith as a playwright, and decides to follow the advice of Captain HOOK,  that  PETER PAN, (“his” new play  that everybody had qualified as  “crazy”), becomes a great success.

As an actor, WILL RAY as Barrie,  “lived”  his role on stage. He acted naturally while playing with the children, and he later lived his tragedy with honor. He sang well. Another great performance  that night was given by VAN KEUREN, in the role of  young mother Sylvia. Not for a second did she let us detect that she was “acting”  while educating her children. And her singing voice was lovely.

And we should add that each one of those five little children, was full of talent, and show  it  clearly while singing to Barrie: “You can be anything you wanna be, You can go anywhere you wanna see. A little hard work and you can do it. Faith will get you through it. You gotta believe. We ‘re all made of stars We are all made of dreams, No matter who you are.”

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THE CAST OF FINDING NEVERLAND

On its  Press opening night, at the S.J. Centre for the Performing Arts, “The acting Troupe”  of  “FINDING NEVER LAND” gave the audience a professional. performance.  Everyone of the actors mastered their roles that night. Not surprisingly, the Standing ovation the performance  received at the end was outstanding.

It is our opinion, that FINDING NEVERLAND, is one of the best new musicals ever written. But we ought to remember, that to find “Neverland” we all must learn to “see” the world, through the eyes of a child.

FINDING NEVERLAND will be shown at THE SAN JOSE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 255 S Almaden Blvd. in S.J. until April 22.  For tickets you can go online to www.broadwaysanjose.com or order by phone by calling: (800) 982-2787.