Last night we went out on a Tuesday to attend opening night of Finding Neverland, a hit Broadway musical now touring across the country. (A big thank you to the National Theatre in D.C. who graciously provided us with tickets to see the show!) The story is about playwright J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired him to create Peter Pan. We didn’t quite know what to expect, but had heard it was award-winning and figured it would certainly have some magical moments, given the source material. Read on to hear a bit more about the show and for our thoughts….
About the Show
Winner of Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Award for Best Musical, this breathtaking smash is “a must-see you’ll remember for years to come” (Vogue). Based on the critically-acclaimed Academy Award® winning film by David Magee and the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee, FINDING NEVERLAND tells the story behind one of the most beloved tales of all time.
Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes a monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland, where nothing is impossible, and the wonder of childhood lasts forever.
Performers & Music
The cast is super talented and has a really fun energy up on the stage. Leads Jeff Sullivan (J.M. Barrie) and Ruby Gibbs (Sylvia Llewelyn Davies) seemed perfect for their roles with optimistic charm and great voices. The supporting actors were entertaining as well from Mrs. Du Maurier (Zeeman) to the adorable (and super talented!) children. There are many nice moments of choreography throughout and we enjoyed Melody Rose as Peter Pan. The ensemble did a great job of taking on different roles and adding in a lot of personality and comedic moments throughout the night. (There is even the cutest dog in the cast too!)
The music was varied and what you would expect for a well rounded musical. Some numbers had great rhythm with different performers adding in layers like “Welcome to London” and the pub scene. Certain songs were more iconic and dramatic like “Stronger” and “What you Mean to Me”. While we really enjoyed certain songs like title song “Neverland” others could be a bit less memorable, and a couple seemed to go on a bit longer than needed (such as “Circus of Your Mind”).
Costumes & Set Design
The play is set in the 1900’s and the costumes stay true to that period, even while bouncing between daily London life and the Neverland inspired worlds. There was a lot of variety between the scenes and many seamless costume changes. The set design was absolutely stunning. Even when arriving at the theater there was a beautiful projection on the curtain giving you a sense of the wonder to come. Projections were used on the background throughout to provide subtly moving storybook backdrops whether in the park or in an imaginative sequence. We really loved some of the creativity that truly added wonder to the scenes such as starry sky backgrounds, pirate ship ropes, and a cool revolving door scene. Even small surprise details like balloons and glitter all added to the magic. Towards the end there is one monumental emotional scene that is super beautiful and mesmerizing.
The story transitioned back and forth between the daily life of the characters intermixed with a lot of imaginative scenes building up to how the idea of Peter Pan came to be. We found some scenes really energetic and exciting (such as the Captain Hook scenes) while others were more simplistic solo numbers. There were lots of details within the writing and we enjoyed little hints and references to Peter Pan throughout, and many funny one liners.
Finding Neverland seems to want to tell a true life story while bringing in a lot of enchantment. It also seems to want to fit in a lot of facets into the show including artistic & creative numbers, romance, adventure, and the play even touched on loss and grief. We found that with so much story to cover that there was a lot of bouncing back and forth between scenes, some being super engaging while some scenes were a little less so. Act 1 also seemed super long for some reason. Overall the story was very touching and left you feeling positive, we just wonder if perhaps just a couple scenes or songs were cut down just a bit it would have been even better.
Finding Neverland certainly had amazing visuals and great musical numbers. It had a sweet story and we appreciated the magical escape and reminder to find the youthful fun in life. Although some scenes/songs were hit or miss for us, there certainly were some beautiful songs and very impressive stage performances. Overall we would recommend this show to a wide audience, especially fans of fantasy based stories. Thanks again to the cast for a great performance and to the National Theatre for giving us a fun night out!
About the Theater
This was our first visit to the National Theatre, which is very close to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue and was easily accessible by the DC Metro. We thought it was neat fact that the National Theatre opened in 1835 and is the oldest touring theater in the country. The size feels intimate and we enjoyed the historic flair. It is also good to note there was a nice drink/snack selection as well.
The National Theatre has presented many fun shows such as MEAN GIRLS, BEETLEJUICE, JERSEY BOYS, LES MISERABLES and NEWSIES. In addition, the National presented many special events and concerts as well. Tickets may be purchased at TheNationalDC.com, in person at the National Theatre box office (weekdays from noon to 6:00 PM), or by calling 800-514-3849. For more information, visit TheNationalDC.com. Follow the National Theatre on Facebook (@NationalTheatreWashingtonDC), Twitter (@NatTheatreDC) and Instagram (@nattheatredc).