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This trip to ‘Neverland’ is just the ticket

Ruby Gibbs in a scene from the Broadway musical, “Finding Neverland.” (Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Imagination rules when it comes to “Finding Neverland.”

After witnessing the opening night of the traveling Broadway show at Popejoy Hall, it’s definitely somewhere I’d love to be.

On Thursday night, not even a faulty smoke detector could deter the magic that was waiting to happen.

After a 30-minute wait, as they say, “the show must go on.” Boy, did the production capture a wondrous world.

“Finding Neverland” is based on the Academy Award-winning Miramax motion picture by David Magee, and the play, “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee.

The musical follows the relationship between playwright J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up  — one of the most beloved stories of all time.

James Barrie never had his own children (one of the reasons his marriage to actress, Mary Ansell ended in divorce), but spent a great deal of time playing with the children of his good friends, Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies.

He loved to create skits for the children’s entertainment.

It was while writing and acting out skits with the Davies children that Barrie developed the characters and plot he would use in the writing of the full-length play version of “Peter Pan.”

Jeff Sullivan and Conor McGiffin in “Finding Neverland.” (Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel)

Jeff Sullivan is tasked with the role of Barrie. To say he did the role justice would be an understatement.

Sullivan showed both his comedic and dramatic chops during each number. There was some heavy lifting he was responsible and came out looking like Superman.

Sullivan wasn’t the only one to shine. In fact, the entire ensemble was flawless.

Conor McGiffin pulled double duty as Charles Frohman and Captain James Hook. The characters are complete polar opposites and McGiffin transitioned between the two seamlessly. I often had to remind myself that it was the same person playing the dual roles.

Meanwhile, Ruby Gibbs as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies completely tugged at my heartstrings. A single mother of four boys, Sylvia is the epitome of strength. Rather than sit and wallow in sadness, she pushes forward to create a magical reality for her children. Gibbs handled this role as if she were born to play it.

As the production takes you to Neverland, the transitions between scenes are spot on.

One number that caught my attention was “What You Mean to Me,” performed by Sullivan and Gibbs.

With the lights low and a spotlight on the two, their shadows were cast on the backdrop. They danced as if their feet didn’t hit the ground. Instead of watching the performers, I caught myself staring at the beautiful shadows magically swaying from side to side.

“Finding Neverland” is directed by Mia Walker.

The book is done by James Graham, while music and lyrics are by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, and original choreography by Emmy Award-winner Mia Michaels.

There’s something beautiful about a production when every aspect of it comes together with purpose.

“Finding Neverland” is a perfect example.

If tickets to Neverland were for sale, it would be worth every penny to take that trip.

The show continues through Sunday.

 

IF YOU GO

WHAT: ‘Finding Neverland’

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16

WHERE: Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico campus

HOW MUCH: $43-$83, plus fees, at unmtickets.com, UNM Bookstore ticket office, UNM ticket office at Dreamstyle Arena, by phone at 925-5858 or 877-664-8661

 

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