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Recap: Finding Neverland at Wharton Center in East Lansing, MI [Art 101]

Lael Van Keuren and Billy Harrigan Tighe in the touring production of Finding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel_2927My eyes got teary so often while watching ‘Finding Neverland’ at Wharton Center on December 12, 2017 in East Lansing, MI, you’d think there was real fairy dust circulating in the air. Its actual cause, though, was how often this incredibly entertaining musical made some of my happiest and saddest memories take flight. Several times while I should have been paying close attention to the actions and scenes taking place on stage of Cobb Great Hall, I would be soaring with the greatest of ease through my own imagination.

Transported back to my grandparents’ house of years long passed, I was a little boy again with my grandma’s dishtowel clipped around my neck. I’d pretend I was Superman flying through the sky, landing thunderously to dual bad guys only I could see. My grandma would fuss at me for stomping loudly.

Next I was at my grandma’s funeral, then my grandfather’s just 3 weeks later. I pondered with welled-up eyes what it was like for them in heaven. Because that’s Neverland, right? You’re eternally young and carefree. Life there’s a never ending romp through the joyous clouds. When I wasn’t in my own head I was fixated on the colorful numbers and honorable portrayals unfolding before me.

Based on the Academy Award-winning 2004 movie of the same name, ‘Finding Neverland’ follows the legendary journey of playwright J.M. Barrie. On a fateful day while down on his craft he meets a widow named Sylvia and her 4 young sons: Jack, George, Michael, and aspiring writer Peter. This encounter and subsequent bond with a family carrying tremendous emotional baggage would inspire Barrie to pen the most successful tale of his career – ‘Peter Pan’.

Among several standout moments, “The World Is Upside Down” was one of my favorites. Opening the second act, this scene hilariously finds the cast learning their somewhat confusing assignment of roles in Barrie’s peculiar new production. I also took note of how clearly lines were spoken and how easily understood each character was as the orchestral music swelled around them. The sound clarity was outstanding throughout.

John Davidson as Captain James Hook in Finding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel_IMG_0033Another moment in ‘Finding Neverland’ that left a standout impression on me was a backyard performance that proved to be a major turning point in the story. The boys were debuting a play written by Peter with Barrie and their mother as the audience. It was here that Sylvia was revealed to be gravely ill. After laughing and applauding just moments earlier the Wharton attendees fell silent. A hush came over the threater as Sylvia coughed up blood. It was shocking and the acting was believable.

I assume everyone at that moment were transported to a no-so comfortable memory of a loved one, wishing they were eternally young and carefree in Neverland. |

CREDITS Written by Mr. Joe Walker | Photos – Jeremy Daniel | Producer – Liquid Arts & Entertainment | Creative Director – The Liquidation Committee | Editor – Mr. Joe Walker | Copy Editor – Mr. Joe Walker | Site Editor – Doug Sims | Webmaster – Doug Sims | Twitter – @LiquidAEMag | Instagram – @liquidmagazine

For more information visit whartoncenter.com.

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