Pantages Theatre flies audiences to ‘Neverland’ in new musical inspired by J.M. Barrie

In Arts & Entertainment, Reviews, Theater & Arts
The Pantages Theatre plays host to the musical "Finding Neverland" until March 12. It is based on the real life of J.M. Barrie, the creator of "Peter Pan." (Kevin Ley / Daily Titan)

Imagine a place to go to escape class, work and day-to-day life; a place where no one ever grows up; a place that delights the senses and brings joy and laughter to the soul with song and dance. The Hollywood Pantages Theatre has discovered such a place.

Just take the second star to the right and straight on till morning.

The musical “Finding Neverland” gives the audience a story of passion, tragedy and hope; but never loses it’s warm-hearted and fun nature. The play is “just a bit of silliness”; as one of the four boys say within the production.

The musical centers around the relationship between J.M. Barrie, the real life playwright and creator of “Peter Pan,” and the Llewelyn Davies boys, the children that inspired Barrie, along with the relationship between Barrie and the four boys’ mother.

The core of the story centers around Peter, a boy who is trying to grow up too fast, and Barrie, a playwright who is trying to reclaim his childlike mentality that has drifted away from him.

The play’s book, written by James Graham, adapts the movie of the same name as well as the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” which are all based on real life events with creative liberties taken. This take on the story is directed by Diane Paulus, who had previously worked on the musicals “Pippin” and “Hair.”

But that is in no way a negative thing, for the musical needs to have that flexibility to create the joy it conveys. The numbers are done in grand fashion and the beautiful Pantages Theatre is a breathtaking way to view it.

However, the actors make the show. Billy Harrigan Tighe stars as Barrie and leads the audience on a musical journey. He flawlessly captures the idea of longing to act like a kid again, and he especially shines in the musical number “My Imagination.”

Starring Christine Dwyer, as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, plays the widowed mother. She encourages the boy’s imagination, and her relationship with Barrie helps carry the musical. Dwyer plays this part well, and the sparks that fly with Tighe make their characters’ chemistry work so well.

Among the main stars and the phenomenal supporting cast, the boys steal the show every time they are in a scene. The Llewelyn boys Peter, George, Jack and Michael are played by a rotating cast of children, but the opening night performance starred Ben Krieger, Finn Faulconer, Mitchell Wray and Jordan Cole, respectively.

Peter is more emotional and appears to have taken the death of his father the worst. His journey and growing relationship with Barrie gives hope and joy, while the musical occasionally touches on serious matters like life and death.

Along the way, Barrie finds inspiration for characters that would later star in his “Peter Pan” play, and the show inspires its spectators to find their inner child. The musical makes the audience feel like the lost boys that chose to never grow up.

The musical opened February 21 and will be running until March 12. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays.

For those not able to attend the shows in Hollywood, The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa will be hosting the musical between March 21 and April 2.

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