By Bob Evans
Special effects, music, dance, and the creation of Peter Pan produced a magical opening night for “Finding Neverland,” on current national tour, at Kansas City’s Music Hall theater for a one week run, opening Tuesday, Feb. 27 and running through Sunday, March 4.
The lavish musical features a brilliant display of projections and special effects added to make the show even more interesting that many of the shows that traverse the country. The eye-popping added features propel the sweet, romantic story of how J. M. Barrie developed the character of Peter Pan and created theater history with his early 1900’s masterpiece that continues to entertain children of all ages.
To add to the enjoyment of “Finding Neverland.” renowned singer/actor/celebrity John Davidson, brought his persona back to the Show Me state as he portrays the dual parts of Charles Frohman (producer) and Captain Hook in the national touring company. Davidson performed previously on KC’s Starlight Theatre stage in such classics as “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel.” He performed his classic Las Vegas-style show in his Branson, Missouri theater for several seasons. And, now, Davidson returns with the national tour of “Finding Neverland.”
Alongside Davidson, two strong performances by Will Ray as J.M. Barrie and Lael Van Keuren as Sylvia Davies make the production special. Ray, as the struggling playwright, grabs the audiences attention from the opening scene and exudes a charm and warmth that sends vibrations throughout the auditorium. Van Kueren, likewise, charms the audience with her motherly tenderness and devotion to her sons as she struggles as a single mother to provide a happy childhood for them after their father passed away recently.
“Finding Neverland” creates a sweet romantic back-story to show the year-long creation of Barrie’s masterpiece. A successful playwright, Barrie discovers that his work seems to follow a tired pattern and longs for something new, fresh, and creative. He looks around, sees children playing in Kensington Park, and remembers how childhood fun fades with each passing day. He wants to re-create that magical time and help young and old enjoy, remember, and celebrate the magical time of wild imagination, fun ‘n games, pirates, Indians, mermaids, and fairies.
While “Finding Neverland” begins slowly in Act I, by intermission, the idea of “Peter Pan” dominates the stage, and the audience knows that Act II brings the boy who refused to grow up to center stage.
The music for the show is strong and the orchestration good. But, the show does not feature a stand alone hit that would make the show more memorable. Similarly, the choreography is fun, but nothing specifically stands out. The show does not feature an outstanding or memorable dance sequence. But, overall, “Finding Neverland” brings lots of smiles and pleasant musical moments for audience approval. Projection and special effects do create theater magic for this show. Oh, and clapping. When seeing any version of Peter Pan’s story, be prepared for audience participation. What would “Peter Pan” be without clapping to save Tinker Bell’s life. The audience with little encouragement gets the opportunity to save the world’s most famous fairy after she drinks poison to save Peter. So clap loudly, and repeat silently “I do believe in fairies.”
“Finding Neverland” provides family entertainment on all levels. The show is sweet, charming, and contains no profanity, nudity, or adult content. That being said, it’s not only a show for young audiences so much so as a show for the young at heart. Barrie awakened the child that lives within everyone and provided a time-honored tale for eternity to enjoy. The show entertains all ages.
The Broadway Across America production is part of Theater League of Kansas City’s Broadway Series. Tickets can be purchased through The Music Hall box office.
Tags: “Finding Neverland”, Theater League of Kansas City, Broadway Across America, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment