The former boyband singer turned first man of pop music spent three years and millions of pounds writing his first musical songbook. He was called up in 2012 to add some sparkle by movie mogul (and theatre novice) Harvey Weinstein after a long-awaited stage adaptation of Oscar-winning film Finding Neverland previewed at Leicester Curve Theatre to less than mediocre reviews.
More money and time was pumped into making the story a hit on stage. The creative team was reshuffled. Hot young playwright James Graham (Privacy, Donmar Theatre) was brought on board to revitalise the script. English actors Julian Ovenden and Rosalie Craig were replaced with a high profile American cast including Matthew Morrison (Glee) and Kelsey Grammer (Frasier). Finding Neverland landed on Broadway with no shortage of star power and celebrities came out in force to celebrate the big budget opening.
But all the sparkle still didn't dazzle the critics; Finding Neverland Broadway reviews were tepid, dismissing the new musical as 'fatally ersatz' and 'syrupy' with songs that sound like 'every terrible song you ever slow-danced to'.
As is often the case with big-budget musicals, ticket sales still soared, audiences still enthused and the creatives stayed chipper. Gary Barlow's co-song-writer Eliot Kennedy ruefully remarked: 'the critics hate Finding Neverland – which probably means we have a hit and will run for years. Brilliant.’
It certainly has the kind of special effects and fairy magic that delight children. Telling the story of writer J.M. Barrie as he brings the boy who won't grow up to life, the show takes audiences from Edwardian London to the fantastical world of Neverland. The problematic undertones of Barrie's relationship with the children who inspired Peter Pan are omitted in favour of feel-good romance. The cheesiness will be no surprise to those that have seen the original film or heard any of Barlow's pop music. But we're reserving judgement until we see the show for ourselves in London.
Details about the cast, dates and run of the West End run are under wraps, but get ready for yet more celebrity pulling power.
|What||Finding Neverland musical, London 2017|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
01 Aug 17 – 01 Aug 18, Run dates and times to be confirmed
|Website||Click here for more information|