Theater

‘Neverland’ Musical Takes a Closer Look at Life of J.M. Barrie

Carol RoseggThe entire cast of the National Tour of Finding Neverland.

The story of visionary J.M. Barrie is taking the stage at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St.) in the musical “Finding Neverland.” The show follows playwright Barrie as he struggles to find inspiration for a new story. When he meets four young brothers and their widowed mother, he observes the make-believe adventures of the young boys and gains the inspiration to pen “Peter Pan.”

The story of Peter Pan spawned several productions sharing similar characters, including the musical of the same name, the Tony Award-winning play “Peter and the Starcatcher”and now “Finding Neverland.” These shows rely on people’s knowledge of the deeply ingrained iconic qualities of the well-known characters.

This show tells the true tale of how Barrie found the inspiration for his famous story and explores the fascinating world Barrie created: Neverland. With appearances by Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and Captain Hook, this musical brings Barrie’s vision to life.

Tom Hewitt, who plays Charles Frohman in the musical — an actual historical figure best known for being an American theatrical producer — talked with The PHOENIX about the show and his character’s role in it.

“He was a really big-deal producer. He pretty much had a monopoly on venues and contracts throughout the United States and a lot of Europe,” Hewitt said. “He was, at the time, leasing the Duke of York’s Theatre [in London] and produced J.M. Barrie’s production of ‘Peter Pan.’”

Hewitt also plays Captain James Hook, a character already familiar to him. He spent time playing Captain Hook in the 2015 tour of “Peter Pan,” which starred Cathy Rigby. While Hewitt said that Captain Hook in “Finding Neverland” is the same villain audiences have come to know, he said it has been an enticing challenge to take on the character in a different context.

“Captain Hook in ‘Finding Neverland’ is really a facet of J.M. Barrie’s personality that kind of manifests itself to encourage J.M. Barrie to pirate up, to find the courage of his convictions and to write his own story and to explore the darker aspects of his personality,” Hewitt said.

Kevin Kern plays J.M. Barrie and Tom Hewitt plays Captain Cook in “Finding Neverland.” The musical left Broadway for its first national tour and is playing at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre through Dec. 4.
Carol RoseggKevin Kern plays J.M. Barrie and Tom Hewitt plays Captain Cook in “Finding Neverland.” The musical left Broadway for its first national tour and is playing at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre through Dec. 4.

“Finding Neverland” is directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus (“Pippin,” “Hair”) with a book by James Graham, an original score by Gary Barlow and Grammy-winner Eliot Kennedy and choreography by Mia Michaels (“So You Think You Can Dance”). The show opened on Broadway in April 2015 and ran for 565 performances before closing in August 2016. This current U.S. national tour opened in October and is scheduled to run through August 2017.

“I don’t want to sound sappy or anything, but it’s really about life. It’s about everyone’s desire to never grow up, really, and sort of the poignance of fact that we do, in fact, grow up, and that’s how life is. Life goes on, and we persevere,” Hewitt said. “[‘Finding Neverland’] is funny, it’s humorous and it’s really about something. It’s a really touching show.”
If you’d like to see some clips of the cast in action, click here.

“Finding Neverland” is playing now through Dec. 4 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St.). Tickets range from $27-$123 and can be purchased online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com, at Broadway in Chicago box offices or by calling (800) 775-2000.

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