‘Finding Neverland’ star on craft, character & creativity

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent

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The Broadway touring production of "Finding Neverland" features Billy Harrigan Tighe, left, as J.M. Barrie and Tom Hewitt, right, as Captain Hook. [Jeremy Daniel

“It’s about trying to renew every single moment, so that the show can be fresh for the  audience.”
That’s how Broadway actor Billy Harrigan Tighe interprets his craft. He’s currently  starring as author and playwright J.M. Barrie in the national tour of “Finding  Neverland,” and for him, touring is all about the process of growth and discovery.
“When you’re traveling, and you’re staying in hotels, and you’re in a different city and  different spaces and different theaters, that can influence so much of your work,  whether you want it to or not,” he said. “I think the best way to resolve a lot of those  issues is by focusing on the story you’re telling.”
Tighe’s own story began just before he entered high school, when he decided to take  a leap of faith and attend a performing arts high school.
“I had shown no interest in the arts up until that point. My parents have been the most supportive. And they never even pushed back a little but with any apprehension about me deciding to go,” he said.
The school was 45 minutes from his house, a logistical nightmare for his parents, yet they didn’t question his desire.
“I hadn’t found a specific outlet that I could feel like I was good at. It (acting) allowed me the opportunity to step outside all the pressures that come with being a teenager. I got to be someone else for a couple hours, and that was what I was really drawn to.”
One thing led to another, and by the time he was in college, Tighe had caught the acting bug and was shooting for the stars. During his first major audition, he crossed paths with another Neverland actor, although he didn’t know it at the time.
“I was a sophomore in college, and I flew to the city on a weekend and went to this first Broadway audition — in a full suit — for Link Larkin in ‘Hairspray.’ I was completely unprepared, and overdressed, and as green and novice as you could get.”
One of the other actors auditioning for the part happened to be Kevin Kern, who originated the role of J.M. Barrie in the “Neverland” tour.
“He (Kern) was wearing jeans and a t-shirt,” Tighe reflected. “And I thought, ‘well, there’s no way this guy’s going to get it — he doesn’t even look like he cares about the audition.’ Sure enough, he was the guy who ended up getting the job.”
Tighe is Kern’s replacement, stepping into the role of Barrie with anticipation and enthusiasm. He’s only been on the road for a few months, but has already connected with the story of “Finding Neverland” on a personal level.
“I think I’m a lot like Peter Pan. And that’s where I find myself like J. M. Barrie. I’m in my 30s, and yet I still feel like I’m 16 years old, just starting out in this career,” he said. “People tell me I’m an adult, and I have a lot of adult responsibilities in my life, but at the end of the day, I play dress up for a living and tell stories. My life is a grand adventure where I’m traveling the world and the country and doing something I love, and trying to keep my youth alive.”
You can see Tighe in “Finding Neverland” starting Tuesday at the Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. May 23-May 25; 8 p.m. May 26; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. May 27 and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. May 28. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets or in person or by phone at 919-680–2787.

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

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