Entertainment

‘Finding Neverland’ explores the creation of ‘Peter Pan’

Ben Krieger as Peter Llewelyn Davies and Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the national tour of “Finding Neverland.”
Ben Krieger as Peter Llewelyn Davies and Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the national tour of “Finding Neverland.” publicity photo

The story about a boy who won’t grow up never gets old.

J.M. Barrie introduced the character of Peter Pan back in the early years of the 20th century, first in a play and then in a novel. The story has been turned into an animated and live-action films and a classic stage musical. An authorized sequel novel appeared in 2006, and such films as “Hook” and “Return to Neverland” took the original story in new directions.

More recently, a couple of high-profile stage musicals inspired by Peter Pan and its author have hit Broadway and regional theaters. One is “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a “prequel” that recently appeared at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. The other is “Finding Neverland,” a 2012 show that transferred to Broadway in 2015 and is now touring the United States.

The tour stops into the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa for eight performances beginning Tuesday.

It’s set in the early 1900s but we have this fun British pop music that’s kind of an interesting contrast. It’s upbeat pop music that keeps your feet tapping.

Christine Dwyer

The musical, which revolves around author Barrie and his inspiration for creating “Peter Pan,” is based on a film of the same name starring Johnny Depp, which was based on a straight play titled “The Man Who Was Peter Pan.”

Despite this being a musical and despite it being an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation, Christine Dwyer said “Finding Neverland” remains a fairly reliable biography.

“Well, I don’t think they just broke out into random songs,” she said. “But essentially it is faithful to the true story.”

Dwyer, who had a 10-month stint as Elphaba in “Wicked” on Broadway, plays Sylvia, a mother of four boys. She and her family meet Barrie in a park. The family sparks Barrie to create Peter Pan, and her four sons are the inspiration for the Lost Boys.

“And she become Wendy, too,” Dwyer said. “You’ll see a lot of the characters from ‘Peter Pan’ in this show.”

It’s a great date-night show, it’s a great family show, it’s a great show to take your grandparents to.

Christine Dwyer

The songs come from Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, two English songwriters who are known for mainstream pop hits.

“It’s cool,” Dwyer said of the music. “It’s set in the early 1900s but we have this fun British pop music that’s kind of an interesting contrast. It’s upbeat pop music that keeps your feet tapping.”

The story of Barrie and the young people he befriended is touching on its own, and the story of Peter Pan is timeless, so “Finding Neverland” is a show that just about anyone should be able to enjoy, Dwyer said.

“It’s a great date-night show, it’s a great family show, it’s a great show to take your grandparents to,” she said. “My hope for this show is that people who see it will go home and hug the people they love.”

Details: May 30-June 4, Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. $31-$93 plus service charge. 813-229-7827, strazcenter.org.

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear

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