By Daniel Skora
The Fisher Theatre is presenting a limited two week engagement of “Finding Neverland”, the story of how Sir James Matthew (J. M.) Barrie came to create his most famous character, Peter Pan.
Barrie was already an established novelist and playwright when he became acquainted with the Llewelyn Davies family and their five sons. Barrie often visited the family and as he had no children of his own, entertained the boys with his stories and wrote skits with them to be acted out in their playtime. One of the stories that resulted from their collaboration was about a land where no one ever grew up and about the ageless boy who lived there. Barrie liked the story so much that it became the stage play “Peter Pan, or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”.
That story and more can be found in “Finding Neverland”, a joyous musical that’s been called “Far and away the best musical of the year”. Which is not only true, but quite possibly an understatement. The show is feel-good entertainment for children of all ages, and everything about the production is first rate.
The story of Peter Pan is featured prominently in the musical. One of the issues the play contains has Barrie attempting to convince theatrical producer Charles Frohman that his Peter Pan play would be a worthy addition to his playhouse’s schedule. In the show, the character of Frohman is played by John Davidson, who also plays Captain Hook. Davidson, some may recall, hosted the television game shows “Hollywood Squares” and “The $100,000 Pyramid” revival back in the 1980’s. He also hosted a reality show called “That’s Incredible”, two words that can also be used to describe his performance in “Finding Neverland”. Besides Davidson, the main characters in the musical are played by Will Ray (J.M. Barrie), Lael Van Keuren (Sylvia Davies), and Karen Murphy (Mrs. Du Maurier). Six young actors alternate in the roles of the Llewelyn Davies children.
A standout among the supporting characters is Dwelvan David, who’s part of the ensemble and plays one of the actors in Frohman’s acting troupe. He delivers the show’s funniest line when asked by one of the Davies boys if he believes in fairies.
Sometimes a show has someone in a supporting role that you just know has future star written all over them. In “Finding Neverland”, that person is Dee Tomasetta, who plays Peter Pan and is part of the ensemble. Tomasetta has the look, the smile, and the choreography skills that even when onstage in a crowd, her presence demands your attention. She also has a local connection, being a graduate of The University of Michigan.
“Finding Neverland” has everything you’d want in a musical: color, spectacle, innovative sets, great costuming, a wonderful cast, songs that touch the heart, Porthos (four legs and lots of hair), and a storyline that’s both heartwarming and inspiring. Brave the snow and the cold weather and go see it!
Book is by James Graham, music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy. The show runs through February 18th. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1.800.982.2787, online at www.BroadwayinDetroit.com, or www.Ticketmaster.com or in person at the Fisher Theatre box office located in the lobby of the Fisher Theatre, 3011 West Grand Blvd.