The Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series presentation of the local premiere of the 2015 Broadway musical “Finding Neverland,” the story of playwright and “Peter Pan” creator J.M. Barrie, continues through Jan. 20 at the Schuster Center. CONTRIBUTED/JEREMY DANIEL
Photo: Jeremy Daniel(www.jeremydanielp
Photo: Jeremy Daniel(www.jeremydanielp

5 reasons you should see ‘Finding Neverland’ at Schuster this weekend

The delightful national tour and local premiere of the 2015 Broadway musical “Finding Neverland,” spotlighting British playwright James M. Barrie and the family which inspired him to create “Peter Pan,” continues through Sunday, Jan. 20 at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.

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Directed by Mia Walker and featuring a book by James Graham and music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Grammy winner Eliot Kennedy, “Finding Neverland” is particularly based on the 2004 Academy Award-nominated film of the same name starring Johnny Depp. Fittingly, the musical dives deeper into the relationship between Barrie and the spirited Davies clan, a bond depicted here as loving yet controversial. As the funny, touching story tugs emotions, the sheer power of imagination plus the benefit of theatrical magic bolsters the show with dazzling results. Here are five reasons why you should check out this charming production.

Ruby Gibbs (second from right) portrays the mother, Sylvia, in the touring production of “Finding Neverland.” CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Staff Writer

1) RELATABLE STORY OF HOPE AND PERSEVERANCE

A successful playwright desperately in search of a new vision, Barrie overcomes his biggest fears in order to achieve his biggest milestone. His journey of perseverance will connect with anyone who has ever felt stuck in a rut. “J.M. Barrie has to dig deeper in order to find a whole new meaning in what he wants to create as an artist,” said Jeff Sullivan, a strong tenor excellently appearing in nearly every scene as the sensitive, fun-loving Barrie. “Life can become very mundane or old hat very quickly, so it’s important to create something special or passionate in our lives because we all serve a purpose. The importance of never growing up, to always believe, and trust yourself to create are (major) themes in the show.”

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2) A HEARTWARMING DEPICTION OF A STRONG WOMAN 

As Barrie finds joy and a sense of fulfillment in the encouraging arms of sickly widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four energetic boys, the musical finds Sylvia and Barrie constantly navigating the fine line between friendship and romance. Warmly portrayed by Ruby Gibbs (providing a powerful rendition of the pop ballad “All That Matters”), Sylvia specifically places the well-being of her children ahead of herself, which speaks to the character’s strength and purpose. “One of my favorite moments in the show takes place in the middle of Act 1 when Sylvia puts the boys to bed and sings them a lullaby,” Sullivan said. “It’s a gorgeous, simple, honest, and earnest moment of a mother loving her children.”

The Broadway musical “Finding Neverland” will be performed Jan. 15-20 at the Schuster Center. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Staff Writer

3) A REFRESHING MAKEOVER

What you’ll see and hear in Dayton is very different from the Broadway original. Certain songs have been shifted, cut or replaced, but trust me, having seen the original, it’s all for the best. In fact, the new opening number “Welcome to London” better establishes Barrie’s stagnation and society’s views of him and his predicament. Shortly afterward, he has a new introductory solo (“My Imagination”) effectively launching his desire to aim higher.

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4) FANTASTIC PROJECTIONS

The world of “Finding Neverland” is absolutely propelled by Jon Driscoll’s fantastic projections filling the stage with stunning London locales such as Kensington Gardens and Westminster Bridge as well as haunting psychological imagery for “Circus of Your Mind,” Barrie’s nightmarish “Peter Pan” scenario.

5) A BEAUTIFUL, BREATHTAKING SEQUENCE 

Toward the end of Act 2, Barrie brings “Peter Pan” to the Davies household in an outstanding sequence beautifully choreographed with contemporary movement by Emmy winner Mia Michaels (“So You Think You Can Dance”). Dynamic dancer Melody Rose (a 2017 Julliard School grad) embodies the unbridled enthusiasm of Peter Pan with gleeful spunk and skillful athleticism, culminating in a breathtaking moment of whimsical stagecraft alongside Gibbs.

IF YOU GO

What: “Finding Neverland”

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20

Cost: $26-$99

Tickets: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com

“Finding Neverland” tells the story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Staff Writer
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