“Finding Neverland” is Pure Entertainment for the Family

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    Finding Neverland runs through February 4 at Altria Theater. [Photo by Jeremy Daniel]

    If there’s one thing I know to be certain, it’s that we were all kids at some point. And kids know how to use their imaginations to have fun. They are free from judgment, free to be themselves, and free to let their imagination soars. Unfortunately many of us have closed the door to that kid inside and to that imaginary world.

    But then we discover Finding Neverland.

    Based on the Oscar-winning film by David Magee and the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee, this high-flying musical explores the relationship between playwright J.M. Barrie and the family who inspired Peter Pan.

    When we first meet J. M. Barrie is he desperately trying to come up with his next play for producer Charles Frohman. What he realizes after meeting and talking to Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (the mom of George, Jack, Michael, and Peter) is that all his plays are starting to look and sound alike. With encouragement from Sylvia and her boys, he learns to tap into the child within and open the door to his imagination. What he comes to understand, with the help of Peter, is that he is that quintessential boy who won’t grow up.

    Finding Neverland takes you on a magical journey that weaves the imaginary into real situations with finesse and creativity. This journey isn’t simply filled with laughter and wonder, although there’s lots of that to spread around – in fact, more than I had imagined. It will touch your heart in more ways than one, especially when the reality of life and its final destiny takes center stage.

    The talent in this production is top-shelf; there is not a weak performance in the production. The acting and the vocals are spot-on throughout the approximately two-and-a-half hour show. From its innovative staging to its crisp, contemporary choreography, this show is the real thing, and no doubt, at Finding Neverland, you will feel like you’re attending a Broadway show.

    While there’s not enough space in this review to call out everyone who did a great job – that would be the entire cast – I have to mention a few performances. John Davidson – yes that John Davidson from shows like Hollywood Squares – does a fantastic job of playing both producer Charles Frohman, who doesn’t want Barrie to stray off the conservative course, and the infamous Captain Hook, who encourages Barrie to engage his imagination.

    All the young actors playing the Llewelyn Davies children were incredibly talented and so personable on stage. Karen Murphy had just the right amount of cynicism for Mrs. Du Maurier, Sylvia’s mother.

    Will Ray and Lael Van Keuren who play J.M. Barrie and Sylvia are amazing. Their beautiful vocals blend perfectly in tandem and fill the venue when it’s solo time. The pair’s sincere performances will tug at your heartstrings.

    Also a shout-out to Sammy, which I believe is the name of the adorable dog on opening night who never flubbed a line, and also Dwelvan David who plays one of the actors in the production and has to portray Sammy as Nana in the show within the show. What a hoot!

    More stars of the night – and I mean absolute shining stars – were the set and the special effects. Not only is the show about unleashing your imagination and doing things you didn’t think you could do, but it also about the imagination of the creative team that put this production together.

    I don’t want to give away any special effects but might I say they will have you believing you’re on this magical journey with the cast. The special effects alone are worth the price of admission.

    Finding Neverland, especially for anyone who loves Peter Pan and believes in Tinker Bell (and yes I do), is pure entertainment. It will steal your heart and spark your own imagination. It’s a definite must-see for families and children six and up.

    The show runs through February 4 at Altria Theater. Go here for tickets.

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    Buy 1 ticket, get 1 free with code PAN for Sun Feb 4 @ 6:30PM. Select 50% Off tickets. Buy Tickets: http://bit.ly/FindingNeverland-RVA