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Finding Neverland

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Finding Neverland is a brand new musical currently having it’s world premiere at the Curve Theatre in Leicester. With a first class creative team including esteemed producer Harvey Weinstein and director/choreographer Rob Ashford, the show has been deemed a huge hit since the initial announcement.

Based on the award-winning film of the same name starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, Finding Neverland tells the story of playwright James Barrie and the events that lead up to his creation of Peter Pan. The book is full of charm and is expertly written by Allan Knee. Effectively anchoring the text are music and lyrics by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie respectively, and although perhaps not entirely memorable, they are beautifully delivered.

Scott Pask’s scenic design is stunning and is made to look even more beautiful under Neil Austin’s lighting and Jon Driscoll & Gemma Carrington’s projection. The transition between interior and exterior scenes using the same framework look wonderful. With such a large scale set and automated pieces, it is very apparent why Weinstein chose the Curve for it’s debut. Although perhaps not the most practically designed theatre, it has world class technical facilities which would even put some West End theatres to shame. Already being destined for a London transfer, it will be interesting to see which theatre could accommodate it in it’s entirety.

Julian Ovenden is one of this country’s best leading men and his interpretation of James Barrie is quite extraordinary. He strikes a perfect balance between the playful boy-ish nature of his character and the serious side which his wife (played brilliantly by Clare Foster) encourages. There is clearly an internal battle going on which is fascinating to watch. Ovenden’s vocals too are second to none. I remember first being exposed to his work in Marguerite back in 2007 and he just gets better and better.

Barrie’s main source of inspiration was his meeting with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons. This throws added confusion into the mix over his relationship with his wife. Sylvia is played by Rosalie Craig who gives an astonishing performance in every sense. She is a very classic performer and between Craig and Ovenden, they probably form one of the strongest lead pairings I have seen in a long time. I remember her impressive vocals from her portrayal of Arwen in The Lord of the Rings as they are so strong and distinctive.

The entire ensemble company deserve high praise as it is a true collaborative piece. The young actors playing the four Llewelyn Davies boys are really talented and I’m sure will go on to do great things, particularly Luke James playing Peter.

I haven’t experienced such magic in a theatre production since Mary Poppins and would definitely say with a small amount of tweaking, the performance would be perfect. Without spoiling the ending for anyone planning to see it, all did not quite go to plan last night but with such a technical production, one element out of hundreds was not bad going at all.

I would more than highly recommend this production to anyone. It runs at the Curve Theatre in Leicester until Thursday 18th October.  

-Jenny Antill

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