‘Finding Neverland’ a journey into imagination

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent

   DURHAM — Second star to the right and straight on to a flight of fancy that will capture the imagination of all; “Finding Neverland” is being performed today through Sunday at the Durham Perfoming Arts Center (DPAC), 123 Vivian St.
Based on the 2004 film of the same name, “Finding Neverland” is a heartwarming combination of fairy tale fiction and life’s wandering journey. Set at the dawn of 20th-century London, “Finding Neverland” follows the conception of a writer’s glorious brainchild. Lauded playwright J. M. Barrie (Billy Harrigan Tighe) begins his story stuck in an endless loop of recycled creativity. His attempts at a new work seem at a first glance fresh, then decidedly familiar.    With demands for a new hit coming from producer Charles Frohman (Rory Donovan), Barrie’s creative challenges began to increase their burden. A chance meeting with a family full of spunk and sadness changes that; widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Christine Dwyer) and her four boys capture both the heart and head of Barrie, bringing out his own inner child. And as he delves into his own imagination once more, Barrie finds that Neverland — the world of Peter Pan and his adventures — has been there all along.
From the beginning, “Finding Neverland” will sweep you up in its story, filling even the most experienced theatergoer with an untamed sense of wonder and excitement. Billy Harrigan Tighe is stunning as J. M. Barrie, with breathtaking vocals and an uncanny awareness of his character’s persona. His transformation from calm, stagnant writer to imaginative, electrifying artist is a picture-perfect character arc audiences will understand.
Christine Dwyer’s Sylvia Llewelyn Davies is the other half of Barrie’s creative completion. She’s resilient, with an infectious spirit and a deep love for each one of her children. Dwyer finds the perfect balance between Davies’ laughter and tears, and each scene with Tighe has an exhilarating chemistry. The Llewelyn Davies boys are a rollicking bunch, full of childhood gusto but also grown-up in their own special way.
Mitchell Wray is especially endearing as Peter, trying to find his way between fantasy and fact as he begins to grow up. Rory Donovan’s Charles Frohman is the picture of a straight-shooting American producer, with the right ratio of authority and humor. But Donovan truly shines as feared pirate Captain James Hook, with a leering recklessness and roguish mannerisms that leave the audience wanting to sail the seven seas of their imaginations all over again. Each member of the ensemble lives and breathes in a world of magic, unexpected humor and discovery. The lighting and set design are jaw-dropping, bringing Neverland to life in a way that’s unforgettably magical.
With unique choreography and breathtaking songs like “Welcome To London,” “Play,” “Stronger” and “We Own The Night,” “Finding Neverland” will capture the hearts and imaginations of the young and the young-at-heart. It has all the familiarity and fun of a childhood favorite with a thoughtful nod to the struggles and successes of growing older. Don’t miss this marvelous, magical musical; it’s the perfect way to find your own Neverland.
   Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. today and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday: and 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $40 to $171 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com.

Logan A. White is a home-schooled junior and a Teens & 20s writer.

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