Friday, April 12, 2024

Broadway Review: “Finding Neverland” with Matthew Morrison Becomes Charming Stage Musical for the Ages


“Finding Neverland” arrives tonight on Broadway loaded for Tony nominations and overflowing with charm. It’s also Harvey Weinstein’s debut as a modern day David Merrick. Stand back.

The good news, and there’s plenty of it: Matthew Morrison is like a real life Peter Pan as he makes a Glee-ful return to Broadway with legions of fans following him. Laura Michelle Kelly is luminous as Sylvia Llewellyn Davies, and Kelsey Grammer steals the show alternating between Barrie’s theater producer and a wonderfully hilarious Captain Hook. Finding Neverland turns out to be the three hankie show of the season with a lump in its throat and a tear in the eye.

“FN” is based on the 2003 Oscar nominated movie hat starred Johnny Depp and was directed by Marc Forster. Now Diane Paulus — of “Pippin” and “Hair” fame– reimagines the story of how “Peter Pan” author James M. Barrie was energized by widow Sylvia Davies and her four young boys. Barrie was at a cross roads at his career as London playwright and stuck in an unhappy marriage. Meeting the Davies in the park awakened his inner child, and soon the story of Peter and Captain Hook, et al came to life. Paulus is expert at whimsy, and so her London shivers with confetti blasts, and delights in oversized bicycles, red balloons, and a hallucinatory clock sequence that I want to see again as soon as possible.

Gary Barlow wrote the music in a sort of Beatle-y, Elton John lite motif, with plenty of catchy songs like “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground,” “Better,” “Circus of Your Mind,” and “Believe.” Morrison, Kelly and Grammer are not the only success stories of “Neverland.” Carolee Carmello is splendid as Sylvia’s haughty mother, and the Davies boys that I saw were spot on without being cloying. The boys even have their own clever number –“We’re All Made of Stars” — that proves witty and endearing.

And PS– Morrison has his huge following from “Glee,” but he’s the real thing. He has a beautiful voice with lots of range, and stage presence to spare.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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