Notwithstanding the fact that Carmel, Indiana native Mitchell Wray is a member of the cast, there are plenty of very good reasons to make the drive to Chicago to see “Finding Neverland.” A national touring production, presented by Broadway in Chicago, the musical is playing now through Dec. 4 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre at 151 Randolph Street in the Windy City.
11-year old Wray, made quite an impression on Indianapolis area audiences, appearing in shows at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre and in the IndyFringe show, “Calder, the Musical,” in August, prior to joining the tour. Now his fans can see for themselves how much he has grown as a performer and seems completely at home on the professional stage.
Wray plays Jack Llewelyn Davies, one of four brothers. They and their mother Sylvia develop a friendship with playwright J.M. Barrie. Eventually the family becomes a basis for Barrie’s novel “Peter Pan, Or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up,” by Peter Magee. The musical is based on the 2004 film “Finding Neverland,” and the 1904 play “Peter Pan, by Alan Knee.
“Finding Neverland” was directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus with book by James Graham, music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, and Mia Michaels (“So You Think You Can Dance” judge) as choreographer.
A story about the power of imagination, “Finding Neverland,” with its ingenious sets, video projections, special effects, lighting design and costumes, is an unforgettable spectacle. The script, replete with witty dialogue, is very funny and clever. Highly entertaining was a cast of comic performers, many of whom created wonderfully quirky and interesting characterizations.
Kevin Kern who excelled as J.M. Barrie, turned in a first- rate acting and vocal performance as the struggling, self-doubting playwright who finds himself severely in a rut until the Davies boys help him get his creative juices flowing again. Kern was especially impressive during his powerful performance of “Stronger Part I,” “Hook,” and Stronger Part II” songs that close Act. 1.
Christine Dwyer, showed believable romantic chemistry with Kern and turned in a strong performance as the beautiful, free spirited, widow Sylvia who encourages her always energetic sons to use their imaginations through play. Dwyer, was especially affecting when she sang “Sylvia’s Lullaby.”
The potent production number “Circus Part I,II,III, and IV,” featuring a dynamic ensemble of obviously seasoned and uber-talented performers, was one of several highlights in a show featuring a score that is quite simply—captivating.
Praiseworthy for its seamless accompaniment was the 11-piece orchestra led by conductor Ryan Cantwell.
Particularly memorable were the charming performances of the multi-talented quartet of young actors, who played the spirited Davies brothers. Besides Wray, the others were Ben Krieger as Peter, Finn Faulconer as George, and Jordan Cole as Michael.
A heartwarming family friendly pastime with uplifting messages abounding, “Finding Neverland,” with its play within a play appeal, is sure to please young and old alike.
Tickets for “Finding Neverland” are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com