Finding Neverland hits the mark

(Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– For all intents and purposes, Finding Neverland is the backstory on how Peter Pan was created. However, the actual musical that hit Oklahoma City is much more than that.

Presented by OKC Broadway, Finding Neverland started its run March 13 at the Civic Center Music Hall and will run through March 18.

The Broadway musical is based on the 2004 film that starred Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet and the Allan Knee play, The Man Who Was Peter Pan.

The musical stars Will Ray as writer J.M. Barrie and tells the struggles he endured in writing the play Peter Pan in the late 1800s. It also delves into the relationship he built with Sylvia Llewelyn (Lael Van Keuren) and her four young boys whom he met in the park while trying to finish a new play.

One of the four kids who belong to the single mother was a very sad young boy named Peter (Connor Jameson Casey). Ever since the death of their father a year before, he had lost his spirit for fun and games. Barrie made it his mission to help Peter find that spark to the detriment of his job, his standing in society and his marriage.

In the process, Barrie also finds the childlike wonderment he had lost, which causes even more problems for him.

“As soon as you find the smallest bit of happiness in this world, someone is there to try and take it away,” said Barrie.

All in all, the Finding Neverland story is very formulaic. Set in England, it features the common theme of pitting the stuffy, boring, high society, old money crowd against a new generation that wants to enjoy life.

While that storyline would normally bore at this point, what made Finding Neverland interesting was that it just wasn’t about Barrie breaking away from a class of people he had nothing in common with. It was about having the courage to do what he was meant to in life, regardless of what others thought.

During the song “Stronger”, the character of Captain Hook (played wonderfully by John Davidson) tells Barrie “A man who is not willing to fight for what he wants, deserves what he gets.”

For me, that simple statement is the foundation of Finding Neverland, and Ray portrayed that inner struggle to great effect. He had to find out whether he was willing to give up everything he had built in his life to be the man he was meant to be. That is a very deep theme I wasn’t expecting.

The rest of the play pretty good. However, the sad kid act of Peter got kind of annoying, as did the relationship between Llewelyn and her snobby mother (Karen Murphy), but that is only because I’ve seen that dynamic too many times before.

The musical numbers go perfectly with the mood of each corresponding scene. From “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground” to “Circus of Your Mind,”  which has four parts, they help push along the story.

I went into Finding Neverland thinking this was not going to be my type of show. I assumed it would be too fluffy and too kid-centric. It turned out to be entertaining and insightful, for young and old.

The article ran in the Yukon Review

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

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