This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission (at zero cost to you). Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
Finding Neverland the musical (non equity tour) is bringing joy to audiences in Thousand Oaks, California, through 19 January 2020 as part of its 55 city tour.
The Cast Standouts:
Starring Mark Bacon as J.M. Barrie and Josephine Florence Cooper as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and Kirk Lawrence as Charles Frohman/Captain James Hook, the show is strongly cast and much like previous shows such as The Sound of Music and The King and I that Broadway in Thousand Oaks presented you could often mistake the talent for an equity tour.
Mark Bacon does a great job weaving his character’s spell of imagination and make believe over the audience. There were several times in fact when he was so engrossed in his performance that I had to sit back feeling somewhat like a voyeur. Vocally too he excelled in what could be considered the quiet moments of the show but those that have the most heart – “Neverland”, “What You Mean to Me” and “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground”.
Josephine Florence Cooper as the sickly yet strong spirited Sylvia Llewelyn Davies did a great job making the role her own. After a momentary comparison to the film’s star, Kate Winslet, I was quite content and satisfied to believe Cooper WAS Sylvia. She has excellent chemistry with the boys who play her sons and created a believable relationship with co-star Bacon. Her “All That Matters” and “What You Mean to Me” were vocally strong and had the audience in tears during her magical [NO SPOILER] scene.
Kirk Lawrence gave perhaps one of the funniest performances in the dual roles of Charles Frohman and Captain James Hook. His “Play” was one of the funniest and most entertaining company numbers of Act Two and the first time he took to the stage as Captain Hook in “Live By The Hook” was a huge favorite.
The boys who make up the rest of the Llewelyn Davies family were fabulous and demonstrated a great deal of sibling comradeship and their “We’re All Made of Stars” and “We Own The Night (Reprise)” were heart-warming and delightful. Each boy did a terrific job creating a unique performance which is impressive especially considering that several of the boys alternate in up to 3 different roles. On opening night, the Llewelyn Davies boys were played by Brycton Archer (George), Nicholas Reed (Michael), Ashton Heathcot (Jack), and Jack Packer (Peter).
Even Oscar was a huge hit as J.M. Barrie’s dog, Porthos, nearly stealing the scene every time he came running on stage.
Among the supporting cast, standouts included the beautiful Justine Rima as Wendy (Acting Troupe) whom I couldn’t take my eyes off of, the energetic Maddie Parrish (Peter Pan, Acting Troupe), the stereotypical over-the-top Timothe Bittle brings a lot of humor to the show in his ensemble tracks, Nicholas Karl Brown as the energetic and physically agile stage manager, Elizabeth Lester who plays a Lost Boy in the acting troupe, Connor Simpson as the diva actor Mr. Cromer, and Desirée Dillon whose vocals during “Neverland” (Reprise) had me aching for more.
The Creative Gems:
Choreographer Camden Loeser did an excellent job recreating Mia Michael‘s choreography after serving as Associate Choreographer for the 2018-2019 tour. My friend and I loved the great ensemble numbers such as “Believe”, “Live By the Hook” and “Play”. In fact the choreography was my friend’s favorite part of the show.
Production Manager and Lighting Designer, Russell A. Thompson, did a fantastic job creating the illusions of shadows during the visually stunning “What You Mean To Me” and Daniel Wurtzel had the audience in awe with his stunning Air Sculpturing that was quite unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
Meanwhile, Jon Driscoll‘s Projection Design were magical in every sense of the word and helped to illustrate the childlike wonder and imagination of the show. It’d be hard to imagine a better use of projection design.
You Must See Finding Neverland:
Have I persuaded you yet that you must take a chance on Finding Neverland? If not, how about this:
Your inner child will come to life!
Thanks to the talented cast, the fabulous design team, the ingenious spoilers I dare not reveal, and the heart warming story (loosely based on the true story of J.M. Barrie and his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family) – this is a must see show!
4-1-1 of the Show:
Title: Finding Neverland (Non Equity Tour)
Current Stop: Thousand Oaks (Now – 19 January 2020)
Hays, KS (1/23)
Columbia, MO (1/24)
St. Charles, MO (1/25)
Pittsburg, KS (1/26)
McAllen, TX (1/28)
San Antonio, TX (1/29)
Abilene, TX (1/30)
Brenham, TX (1/31)
For tickets and more dates visit the official website here.
Age Recommendation: Finding Neverland is a family show with no scary scenes or terrible language. There are several adult themes that will possibly go over the heads of the youngest in the crowd including adultery. (The relationship between J.M. Barrie and Sylvia is more explicitly established in comparison to the movie and there’s little doubt Mary Barrie is having an affair.) Death is also a strong theme of the show – no spoilers there for those who’ve seen the movie – but it is tactfully handled and perhaps fewer tissues are required for the stage.
Disclaimer: I received my tickets for review purposes but all opinions are my own.