With the tinkle of a fairy’s wing and some magic dust, you are invited to a most singular and exclusive party in the reimagined tour of ‘Finding Neverland’ at the Baltimore Hippodrome. Opening this past Tuesday, the production takes its audience through the circus of J. M. Barrie’s mind as he finds the inspiration for one of his most beloved stories: Peter Pan.
A musical adaptation of the movie by the same name, ‘Finding Neverland’ has undergone some changes since its almost eighteen month run on the Broadway stage. The first three opening songs have been replaced by two new ones, parts of the script have been rewritten, and the ending has been slightly shortened from its original, more drawn-out resolution. This fresh take on the musical provides quite a different experience for those seeing it for perhaps the second or third time and continues to entrance those experiencing it for the first time.
Billy Harrigan Tighe brings an earnest, yet guarded, J. M. Barrie to life in a way that highlights his vulnerability and when we first meet him, he is struggling to complete a play that is simply an amalgamation of characters and plot points from some of his previous work. He meets the four Llewelyn-Davies children–Jack, Peter, George, and Michael–while attempting to write in the park, followed by their recently widowed mother, Sylvia, played by the esteemed Christine Dwyer.
As Barrie’s play springs to life under the playful tutelage of the Lllewelyn-Davies children, Barrie faces the aftermath of his broken marriage, his ever-strengthening bond with Sylvia – who seems to bring out the best parts of him only as she grows, physically, weaker and weaker – and the expectations from his producer Charles Frohman, played by John Davidson. Davidson also doubles as Captain James Hook, written here to be Barrie’s alter-ego, the side of him that encourages spontaneity and risk.
The musical is packed with subtle–or sometimes not so subtle–references to the Peter Pan we all know and love, featuring most prominently Barrie crowing to the four Llewelyn-Davies children and striking Peter’s iconic stance. The musical also opens with a small glowing light flying about in front of the curtain, referencing Peter Pan’s fairy sidekick, Tinkerbell. At one point in Barrie’s play, Tink begins to die after using the last of her strength to save Peter and the audience springs into action, clapping to show their belief in her and thus saving her life.
There is a place where children do not grow up – or they at least forget they are grown-ups for about three hours – and that place happens to be where you can be anything you want to be and you can do anything you want to do, without limitations or structures. ‘Finding Neverland’ captures this space beautifully; children can look into the world the musical creates and see wonder alongside possibility while adults can rekindle, those feelings of childhood fascination.
So take the second star on the right, straight on until morning, and soon enough you’ll get there. Or you can just visit the Hippodrome.
‘Finding Neverland’ will be performed at the Baltimore Hippodrome until July 2. It has a run time of two hours and thirty-five minutes with one intermission, and tickets range from $42 to $188 on Ticketmaster.