“John Davidson is in the cast!” said Dave. Bill replied, “Who’s that?” Their niece Christina said, “I never heard of him.” Those of you who were born before 1985 would know the name John Davidson. In the 1980s, he was as ubiquitous on TV as Bert Convey, or the sublime Charles Nelson Riley. He appeared on specials, talk shows, and everywhere as a singer with pronounced dimples.
So why is John Davidson now in a play? He is both Captain Hook and producer Charles Frohman in the Kimmel’s Broadway Philadelphia touring company of Finding Neverland, at the Academy of Music now until November 26. Davidson is smashing in both roles. Clearly, he must have a portrait in the attic like Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s tale which ages for him while he stays forever youthful, since he appears much younger than his 75 years as he dances and sings throughout the musical.
There are three other principal characters in addition to John Davidson in Finding Neverland. Billy Harrigan Tighe is the handsome, irrepressible, and agile lead. As J. M. Barrie, the author of the Peter Pan stories, we see the story through his narration. He delivers an incredibly athletic and satisfying performance. One day, J. M. Barrie meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (played by Lael Van Keuren). She is a young and attractive widow, and mother of four irrepressible boys who beguile Barrie into eschewing his formulaic plays and tap into his boyhood dreams. As it so happens, Mrs. Barrie (Kristine Reese) seeks the attention of a society grande dame, Mrs. De Maurier (played by Karen Murphy). As coincidence would have it, Madame De Maurier is Sylvia’s mother. So begins the tale.
The four Llewelyn Davies children are cast from a cadre of young professional boys. At the Tuesday, November 21st opening night, the four lads performed admirably. There are several alternating casts since the boys do have challenging roles as they sing and dance and engage in dialogue.
The rest of the cast are splendid in all that they do. There is even a dog, Porthos, played by Sammy, a huge, shaggy affair which elicited “aawws” and “ooohs” whenever he shambled onstage. Mia Michaels provided spirited choreography (some moves reminded us of Tommy Tune) which was well-rehearsed. Diane Paulus directed this spectacle superbly, integrating flying effects, magical moments, musical numbers, children, dancers, and a dog.
Finding Neverland is a magical, heartwarming treat for the whole family.
For more information about Finding Neverland and other presentations under the Broadway Philadelphia aegis, visit www.kimmelcenter.org .