As I ventured under the New York raindrops last night, to see Finding Neverland, I spared myself too much anticipation. I worried that a play relating to a famous movie, or the historic Peter Pan fairy tale might influence me to imagine a spectacle too unlike what unfolded before me in real life (running the risk of disappointment). I found the contrary. I was not disappointed. I was rather inspired!
With a line in the first Act, “to have FAITH, is to have WINGS”, I began to enjoy the story itself. The delivery of this line was quite perfect from the Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, played by Laura Michelle Kelly, to J.M. (James) Barrie, played by Matthew Morrison. Sylvia’s character is so full of life, which I’m sure is a requirement of raising four boys, and her presence is a necessary force in a play dealing with themes such as loss, grief, sickness and the death of parents.
It seems strange to include dark themes into a musical meant for children and families to enjoy… but all fairy tales do contain dark elements and lessons for living life. Finding Neverland is no exception – and it extends its lessons to adults as well.
Faith demands imagination regardless of the age of the person engaging with it. It is not exclusive to religion. Faith involves a belief in something greater than the individual, connection to a force causing a fair balance of light to compensate for life becoming dark. It’s generally effortless for a child to achieve this symphonic balance. For Peter Llewelyn Davies (Aiden Gemme), however, it proves to be more difficult to deal with life after the loss of his father than his three brothers Jack (Christopher Paul Richards), George (Sawyer Nunes) and Michael (Alex Dreier).
It is heartbreaking to discover, and even more disturbing to be able to relate to, the denial of imagination and faith that takes place in Peter’s life. It is disturbing because the loss mirrors the degradation of a person’s imagination slowly being denied as part of growing up causing a separation of the reality of our lives from the possibilities for our lives. The uplifting contrast by the end of Act II is watching Peter experience the ability to trust the people around him and to discover that his writing can act as an outlet to sort through things like grief/pain, but also love/joy!
The power that children have struck me as I watched Peter’s journey because even though he is a child… the difficult process of bravely reclaiming his imagination, faith and connection to life inspires his acclaimed playwright and step-father, James, to cease a long-standing writers block and create a play about Peter Pan and a whole world of fairies. This world goes on to capture the imaginations of children through future centuries of bedtime stories! It even goes on to inspire adults like me with a beautiful, maternal line that “to have faith, is to have wings”. It rings in my mind like the golden fairy dust that Tinkerbell uses to fly. It seems to transfer that ability that I had to believe that maybe, maybe pixie dust could make me fly in my room as a kid to the faith that maybe, maybe my dreams could come true if I have the type of courage that Peter has to reach out and inspire the people around me.