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Flights of Fancy

With some pixie dust and a lot of enchantment, playwright J.M. Barrie's "Finding Neverland" spectacularly shows that nothing is impossible when the wonder of childhood powers dreams of lost boys.

Gina Conroy
February 28, 2018

If you think you know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up, think again. Finding Neverland, the musical based on the Academy Award-winning motion picture and Allan Knee’s 1988 play The Man Who Was Peter Pan, takes theatregoers on an enchanting journey into the life of J.M. Barrie and his struggle to find success as a playwright.

Inspired by the make-believe world of not one, but four boys, Barrie learns to embrace his inner child and finds the courage to create the adventures of Peter Pan. In doing so, he’s proven to audiences young and old throughout the century that if you follow your dreams despite adversity, something magical can happen when you believe.

While Finding Neverland is inspired by true events and takes creative liberties regarding some of the facts of the real life Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies children, it is characteristic of the strict class system of 20th century Edwardian London.

After 17 months on Broadway, the production of Finding Neverland closed on Aug. 21, 2016, and began a U.S. national tour in October 2016. (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)
After 17 months on Broadway, the production of Finding Neverland closed on Aug. 21, 2016, and began a U.S. national tour in October 2016. (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

For the production coming to Tulsa, Karen Murphy plays Mrs. Emma du Maurier, the grandmother of the boys — Michael, Jack, George and Peter.

“She was proper with a capital P and manners with a capital M,” says Murphy. As socially conscious as the rest of society, du Maurier disapproves of the casual friendship her daughter, the mother of the four boys, had with Barrie, a married man. Though there was nothing inherently improper about their relationship, and Barrie proved to be a perfect playmate and father figure to the boys, du Maurier and Barrie locked heads until they eventually arrived atdétente.”

What would a Peter Pan story be without Captain Hook? (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)
What would a Peter Pan story be without Captain Hook? (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Not only did Barrie defy the norm in his personal life, but in his professional life as well. While the upper-class expected a sophisticated theatrical experience, Barrie risked his reputation to unlock that place inside everyone who longed for the days of carefree childhood adventure. Though he met with opposition, including his own producer who believed Peter Pan held no appeal to high-society theatregoers, the success of the show with all classes proved everyone desires to escape to an imaginary world of adventure, at least for a few hours.

If you’re wondering if you’ll experience the magic and adventure of Peter Pan, stop worrying. “No one will be disappointed,” says Murphy. “Consistently all across America, families wait at the stage door to talk about what a powerful experience it was for them. It really is a bonding experience for the families.”

The tremendous success of the touring show proves audiences long for the adventure Barrie and the boys brought to the stage. While many musicals are geared to an adult audience, Finding Neverland is family friendly, and has something for everyone. “That’s one reason it is such an enormous hit on the road,” says Murphy.

In every city, Murphy loves seeing three generations walking to the theater with grandparents clutching the hands of little boys and girls all dressed up and mom or dad trailing behind with older children.

“Children love the show,” says Murphy. “There are four boys under 12 and a dog. Young kids love seeing kids onstage. The boys get an enormous response every night.”

While the show will enchant the children, Murphy makes it clear Finding Neverland is not a children’s show — it’s a family show. “There is lovely adult humor that goes over the children’s heads and is steady throughout the show so the adults stay engaged as well.

“These people have taken their money and time to see us, to be transported to another time and place,” says Murphy. “They leave with an experience they’ll share for years. That’s the power of what we do.”

Finding Neverland
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
101 E. 3rd St. | Tulsa
March 6-8: 7:30 p.m.
March 9: 8 p.m.
March 10: 2 p.m., 8 p.m.
March 11: 2 p.m., 7 p.m.