Phil Willmott

Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland Lots of Gary Barlow's score for this musical about how J.M Barrie came to write PETER PAN sounds like vintage Take That. I mean a lot. Not necessarily a bad thing, personally I like a bit of late 90s boy band but it's quite disconcerting when the pop, drum beats suddenly kick in amidst the Edwardian frocks.

It’s impossible to believe Matthew Morrison’s (Mr Shue from TV’s Glee) has the mischievous mercurial mind and energy of Barrie, the role played by Johnnie Depp in the film version of the same name but he's a great singer and as handsome as you’d expect.

Kelsey Grammer is fantastic. He plays Captain Hook and a theatre impresario exactly as he plays Frasier on TV. No complains here. The biggest laugh of the evening comes in a London pub scene when a jolly actor type passes the American impresario a drink with the words "do they say cheers where you come from?" Kelsey arches an eye brow at the audience. They go mental.

The lyrics are 100% generic Disney “Be-true-to-yourself”. The big anthem about this "When your Feet Don't Touch the Ground" is lovely in a Boyzone way. And memorable.

The show assumes the audience know Peter Pan very well and are excited to discover how the masterpiece came about. I wonder if sticking so closely to the film on the assumption it's a well loved classic is a mistake. For the first hour we're waiting for something, anything, fantastical to happen amidst the scenes of people talking on park benches about Barrie's writers block.

The show’s surprisingly light on spectacle and magic. For the high ticket price you don't expect actors to be running around billowing sheets to represent water or a pirate ship just made with a bit of dry ice and some ropes flown in.

The set is a simple arrangements of flats in ugly clashing colours that I think represent a collage of Edwardian line drawings and maps coloured in with crayons. It's often as if they were aiming for the aesthetic of the MARY POPPINS classic movie then panicked and turned up the volume, saturated the colours and put funny servants in with funny walks in case we're not having enough fun.

The packed audience of all ages loved it. Roaring for more through the prolonged, if inevitable standing ovation and laughing generously at all of Kelsey's excellent one liners.

It's currently the best selling show on Broadway and packed at every performance even at the silly ticket prices. I doubt if sniffy reviews when it opens will stop world domination.