The Power of Peter Pan

Billy Harrigan Tighe and John Davidson. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

By Tonya Abeln

“You can go back to being what everyone expects you to be, or you can find the courage to write your own story.”

It was that line, delivered by Captain Hook to J.M Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, that resonated so deeply with acclaimed Broadway Director Diane Paulus that she knew she must bring the story of “Finding Neverland” to the stage.

I had the opportunity to speak with Paulus in New York City earlier this year when traveling to announce the upcoming PNC Broadway Louisville season. When asked why theatre audiences may consider this classic tale, despite having seen the movie, she said, “The story of Peter Pan is a call to anyone of any age to ask themselves, ‘When do we wake up and live the life that we know we need to live instead of the life we think we should be living?’ We can never be reminded of this enough.”

Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and Billy Harrigan Tighe as J.M. Barrie. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

For those familiar with the 2004 Oscar-winning film, you know that Barrie, played by Johnny Depp in the movie, finds inspiration in a widow and her four sons. From there, the magical world of Neverland was imagined, a risky play to produce for the high society of London. The beauty of the stage production is in the ability to be a voyear of the backstage action through the trials and fears of production. 

American theater historian Didlier Deutsch says, “The story of Peter Pan has always held a special fascination for children of all ages, and with good reason – it offers a swashbuckling adventure combined with some of man’s most secret desires, to fly and explore another world somewhere beyond the stars, and never to grow old.” Indeed for over one hundred years, Peter Pan has made a lasting impression on pop culture.

Paulus offers that “Finding Neverland” is also about redefining family. “When J.M. Barrie took this artistic plunge in 1904, he really came into his own as an artist, but he also discovered himself as a father,” she explained.

It’s hard to imagine a time without Peter Pan and despite the character’s continuing influence on our collective psyche, it’s easy to miss the point entirely without the benefit of “Finding Neverland.” This touring production serves as a stimulating call to action in life. As Paulus described, “This story is a reminder that ‘I’ve got to wake up, do what I love and take a risk.’ That’s where the riches of life will lie.”

The production features choreograpy by Emmy Award-winner Mia Michaels of “So You Think You Can Dance”-fame and is packed with mesmerizing visuals, irresistible songs and plenty of laughs. It is a timeless story about the power of imagination with proof that you never really have to grow up.

Finding Neverland will play at The Kentucky Center October 24-29. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday evening at 8 p.m., Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., Sunday matinee at 1 p.m. and Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at The Kentucky Center, by phone at 502.584.7777 or online at kentuckycenter.org  VT