Thursday, October 17, 2019

#TBT: OBCR: Finding Neverland

The Peter Pan story resonates with me much like Harry Potter resonates with the generations after mine (for the record, I love Harry Potter). And the Peter Pan story has come in many forms, from Disney to Hook to Peter and the Star Catcher to the sweet film Finding Neverland. So, when the stage version came to be, I was very excited to see it. Early reports were negative - plus a lot of grousing over the recasting of Jeremy Jordan to Matthew Morrison - but that didn't squash my enthusiasm. I have long since gotten past letting public sentiment determine how much I will like a show. And I saw the show during late previews, so I assume it was close to, if not already, set.

Well, I loved it. As much, if not more than the film. The creative staging by Diane Paulus and the fanciful Broadway meets modern/jazz choreography by Mia Michaels activated my imagination as any good spin on Peter Pan should. I remember vividly the theatricality "Circus In Your Mind" and the delightfully crazy dancing and sliding around the floor during "We Own the Night." Nothing prepared me for the visually stunning/emotionally devastating final scene. I gasped and sobbed. I was not alone.

So how is the cast recording? I love it as much as I do the show itself. The score, by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, is delightful from start to finish. I particularly enjoy the homage to the Broadway musical version of Peter Pan in the tarantella-esque style of the songs for Frohman/Captain Hook (Kelsey Grammer, in fine, bellowing voice), and the playful tones for the songs for the children. The ballads of both hope and despair for Sylvia (sung beautifully by Laura Michelle Kelly) are designed perfectly for full emotional impact, even by just listening to them. And the songs for J.M. Barrie run the gamut from emotional ballads to jaunty tunes of fancy mirroring the character's evolution. Matthew Morrison is ideally suited to the score - he has the pipes for such range. That said, I wish I had had the opportunity to hear what Jeremy Jordan sounded like. (Here, as in the theater, I wish Carolee Carmello had more to do.) My favorite numbers include "Believe," "We Own the Night," "Sylvia's Lullaby," "Circus of Your Mind," (great effects!), and "Stronger." Those are all in act one. I love pretty much every single track from act two.

The CD booklet is also first rate. Includes liner notes from Diane Paulus, Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, and a full synopsis. There are full credits and lyrics, and more than a dozen full color production photos. I suggest giving this another listen. There is a lot to take in; the more you hear it, the richer the experience.

Grade: A+

Fun Facts about Finding Neverland...
  • The original production played 33 previews and 565 performances, opening April 15, 2015 and closing on August 21, 2016 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
  • Actor Bryan Cranston was a principal producer of both the Broadway production and the National Tour.
  • Kelsey Grammer fulfilled his six month contract in two parts: opening the show and staying for three and a half months, then returning for an additional two and a half months later in the run.
  • One of Carolee Carmello's replacements, legendary star Sandy Duncan, was with the show for four days. Days.
  • The show's original "Peter Pan" was played by So You Think You Can Dance champion Melanie Moore. Her replacement was Amy Yakima, another SYTYCD champion.
  • On Broadway, Porthos was played by a real dog named Jack. Pre-Broadway, Porthos was played by a human named by Thayne Jasperson. You may remember him from Newsies and Hamilton...
  • The score was the first (and to date the only) for Brits Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy. Barlow was one the lead singer of the pop group Take That, while Kennedy has written songs with/for such pop stars as Bryan Adams and The Spice Girls.
  • Finding Neverland received 0 Tony Award nominations.

📸: C. Rosegg

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