So, I have indulged one of my childhood fantasies- on Thursday I went away to Neverland, courtesy of the brand new musical from Harvey Weinstein and an incredible team of people: Finding Neverland, based on the hit film of the same name. The musical’s current home is the Curve Theatre in Leicester, which I have to say is one of the most coolest buildings I’ve ever experienced- its fresh, colourful and has a kind of quirky edge to it- not to mention being absolutely MASSIVE!
Having said that, I was struck by how the actual theatre space is much smaller, it created a wonderful kind of intimacy that I felt was perfect for the piece. It also meant that I had a great view due to where the wheelchair spaces were, which is something I’m always grateful for.
Before I go on my customary raving about the casting and how fabulous it was (there will be a LOT of this believe me:D) I’d like to devote a little more time to the crew and the creative process. Those of you that know me well will know I’m a bit stuck in my ways when it comes to what musicals I like to watch *cough LES MIS cough* 😉 and so it was really refreshing to see something completely new which is not only bought to life through amazing actors, but also through some really inventive scenic, lighting and projection design from Scott Pask, Neil Austin, Jon Driscoll & Gemma Carrington, respectively. One of my favourite elements of this were the letters James and Sylvia exchanged- Julian and Rosalie would stand either side of the stage giving their lines, with the letters being projected onto the wall behind them, fancy writing and all!
There was even a proper car and a pirate ship for god’s sake, what more could my inner child want? The whole set and feel of the piece just radiated a kind of fearlessness and childlike sense of freedom and creativity that I think at times is missing from the West End, at least in my experience of the theatre there.
Special mention also to Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics) for helping to make the journey more memorable with songs that were beautiful and brilliant in their simplicity but often loaded with poignancy and meaning- more on my favourites of those later!
Now to the cast, all of whom were wonderful but here are my special mentions, commencing with the leading man and lady.
Julian Ovenden (J.M. Barrie) – This man has cemented himself as one of my favourite singers after I fell in love with his album and his rich, powerful voice. As a result of this new found admiration, it was a joy to see him onstage and I will forever regret not doing so sooner. He gave such a sincere and truthful performance and embodied the innocence of the child within the author so completely that I was utterly smitten with him from start to finish. Plus his Scottish accent for the role is brilliant and literally the most adorable thing :’)
Rosalie Craig (Sylvia Llewelyn Davies) – What can I say about this woman? She’s insanely beautiful, ridiculously talented and completely deserving of all the praise and recognition that she’s getting. I fell in love with her voice and loved the sense of inner strength and honesty her portrayal of Sylvia had. It was an honour to have seen her at last and I hope this production has been the first of many opportunities.
Oliver Boot (Maximillian Blunt/Hook) – A new face for me, and like Rosalie I really hope it won’t be the last time I’m able to see him. Particularly as Hook, I found his stage presence really strong and effortless and thoroughly enjoyed each time he was onstage-he had a lot of the funny lines and The Pirate Inside where he was swordfighting with Julian was, in my humble opinion, sheer genius 😀
Clare Foster (Mary Barrie) – Another new face for me and loved her performance. She bought a warmth and sensitivity to the character of Mary that I wasn’t expecting, given my reaction to her portrayal on screen.
The four boys I had were all excellent also. Another funny little anecdote concerning Mrs Du Maurier (Sylvia’s mother): I spent the entirety of the first half just going: ‘I know that woman. I recognise her voice’ and it wasn’t until interval that it hit me: ‘MADAME GIRY!’ Otherwise known as the wonderful Liz Robertson.
My particular favourite songs:
It Could Never Happen Here
Shadows and Fog (Julian gave me shivers here)
Neverland (I’ll never forget the first time it’s sung, the moment where one of the boys says: ‘Dance with Mother, Mr Barrie!’ made me feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s Reprise near the shows end broke my heart)
In the Blink of an Eye (Julian. Rosalie. Together. Lovely lyrics. Enough Said :D)
The most special shoutout in this blog must, however, go to Katy, Vicki & Erin. It was great to meet y’all (don’t think I’ve laughed so much in a long time) and I had such fun, particularly post show with Julian & Rosalie (who, incidentally are completely wonderful and charming and lovely) so thankyou to all of you for letting me share in the journey.
It’s a wonderful show that I think holds great spirit and heart, and when it makes it to the West End if this cast are still involved, I will be first in line to see it time and again. Why? Simple… I believe in faries! 😀