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Playhouse Square production of ‘Finding Neverland’ makes you a believer

Prior to the delayed start of Finding Neverland opening in the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square (due in part to a World Series game and a Cavaliers game on the same night), Gina Vernaci came on stage to explain the delay. During her talk she mentioned the extraordinary amount of stage scenery needed for this show. In all it takes seven full semi-trucks to haul all of the complex sets and costumes from city to city during its tour.

When the show arrived (fashionably late) it was well worth the wait. The current touring show of Finding Neverland under the direction of Diane Paulus is nothing short of amazing. From the first boffo ensemble number through the various solos and duets (including a tender love scene) to its sparkling finish and finale this show is a huge hit. Surprisingly enough, in spite of the two major sports teams playing just blocks away (affordable parking was a downtown challenge) a majority of seats were filled which shows how much Cleveland loves its musical theater.

J.M. Barrie (Kevin Kern) is a highly noted turn of the century London playwright who is suffering from writer’s block. Taking a break in Kensington Park on a rare sunny afternoon in order to finish his newest play he becomes involved with four rambunctious brothers; George (Finn Faulconer), Peter (Eli Tokash), Jack (Mitchell Wray) and Michael (Jordan Cole) and their imaginative widowed mother, Sylvia (Christine Dwyer). As his imagination is set free through play, Barrie realizes that his new play is “ka” and tears it up. His new work, Peter Pan is begun based on the make believe world that the boys have manufactured.

This destruction of the promised new work puts his boss, theatre owner Charles Frohman (Tom Hewitt) in the bad situation of an empty theater with no new show and a cast on salary. When the new work, Peter Pan, is revealed the cast openly rebels due to the childish nature of the play. It is only when Frohman challenges them to find their deeply buried inner child that work on the play can begin.

Barrie’s desire to work on Peter Pan comes from a series of disasters, disappointments and calamities in his life that have made him forget his original child like nature. Through the combined imagination of his new found “family” he is able to recapture his child essence and write an endearing classic.

This is a show that equal numbers of adults and children should be filling the seats. The musical staging is wonderful and while there is an underlying theme of loss, the message of hope brightly overshadows.

There were some apparent technical glitches on opening night that in spite of the later start did not seem be resolved as the play came to life. Fortunately, it was nothing that distracted too greatly from the overall performance.

The eight piece orchestra was well up to the task filling the Connor Palace with a full sound. Lighting and sound levels made for a crisp look for the performance and the spectacular video effects perfectly blended live action with projection for perfect fantasy sequences. The actors were all on their best marks and even Porthos the dog (played by Sammy) had no errors.

This is a show that the entire family will appreciate. With over the top big Broadway numbers, delightful singing and dancing, a good moral theme and a general fun feel that makes time fly by faster than Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle. This is a great way to share musical theater with your children. Get your tickets quickly.

The cast is led by Kevin Kern (Bridges of Madison County, Wicked) and Christine Dwyer (Wicked, Rent), with Tom Hewitt (Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago), Joanna Glushak (A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, Jordan Cole, Finn Faulconer, Tyler Patrick Hennessy, Ben Krieger, Eli Tokash, and Mitchell Wray.

The production features scenic design by Tony Award®-winner Scott Pask (Pippin, Book of Mormon), lighting design by Tony Award®-winner Kenneth Posner (The Coast of Utopia, Pippin), costume design by Suttirat Anne Larlarb (Of Mice and Men), sound design by Tony Award®-nominee Jonathan Deans (Pippin, La Cage aux Folles), hair and make-up design by Richard Mawbey, projection design by Jon Driscoll, music supervision by Fred Lassen, musical direction by Ryan Cantwell and casting by Stewart/Whitley.

Finding Neverland is part of the 2016-2017 KeyBank Broadway Series at Playhouse Square and Produced by Weinstein Live Entertainment and NETworks Presentations.

Finding Neverland will be on stage in the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square through November 20, 2016. Tickets may be purchased online by going to, by phone at (216) 241-6000 or by stopping by the Playhouse Square Ticket Office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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