Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Patrick's review of Émilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight
Playwright J.M. Barrie (Kevin Kern) struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers (Finn Faulconer, Mitchell Wray, Jordan Cole, and local boy Tyler Patrick Hennessey) and their widowed mother Sylvia (Christine Dwyer). Mesmerized by the boys' captivating make-believe, he sets out to write "Peter Pan." The boys introduce Barrie to their mother and he develops romantic feelings for her, even though he is married to another woman.
Finding Neverland's score by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy and the book by James Graham show a striking balance between engaging and fantasy. The delightful score is bubbly, somewhat reminding me of a Lionel Bart score, especially in the numbers "Welcome to London" (the new opening song), "Circus of Your Mind," and "We're All Made of Stars." There is zany and bouncy choreography by Mia Michaels as the dancers leap, hurdle, swerve and twist in energetic fashion. Scott Pask has designed a beautiful set with Jon Driscoll's unbelievable digital projections on the back wall, which include rolling clouds, shooting stars, and city scenes. There are also pirates, mermaids, Indians, a crocodile, a dog, and a dancing bears. Suttirat Anne Larlarb's costumes are fantastic. Ryan Cantwell leads an eight-member orchestra.
Kevin Kern (plays the role until February 5 when Billy Harrigan Tighe takes over through the end of the run here) is excellent as J.M. Barrie with his impressive voice. I particularly liked Tom Hewitt as Charles Frohman with his distinguished vocal cords. He morphs into the character Captain James Hook and gloriously hams it up. Christine Dwyer in appealing in the role of Sylvia and has a vibrant voice in her rendition of "What You Mean to Me," and Finn Faulconer as Peter gives an entrancing performance, with pitch perfect resonance when singing "We're All Made of Stars." The other children, Mitchell Wray, Jordan Cole, and Tyler Patrick Hennessey, are captivating and they are harmoniously energizing when singing "We're All Made of Stars."
Time Magazine says this musical "captures the kid-at-heart" and I am inclined to agreeit captured my heart.
Finding Neverland runs through February 12, 2017, at the SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtained by calling 888-746-1799 or by visiting www.shnsf.org. For more information on the tour, visit findingneverlandthemusical.com/tour. Coming up next at the Orpheum is Hamilton, starting March 10. During the six month run all other musicals will run at SHN Golden Gate Theatre; next up at that theatre is Rent, the 20th Anniversary Tour February 7-19.