I made two special trips last year to catch some new shows. They were well worth it, so here's the rundown.
Finding Neverland, American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 12, 2014
Finding Neverland, a new musical based on the 2004 film of the same name, follows author J.M. Barrie (played by Jeremy Jordan) as he becomes inspired by his friendship with Silvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons to write his next play, Peter Pan. It took me about a half an hour to realize that I was comparing everything in this musical to the movie, one of my all-time favorites starring my favorite actor in the lead role. So, try not to do that when you see this production because it's a very different experience.
For me, the best thing about Finding Neverland, the musical, is how it showcases the creative process at work. During the musical number called "Circus in my Mind," for example, Mr. Barrie fails to repress his own dark thoughts, out of which comes the character Captain Hook. Inventive choreography by Mia Michaels represents both reality and whimsical fantasy to show the duality and spirit of the writer's task. Directed by Diane Paulus, this show offered a talented cast and creative staging that captured the imagination.
True, Johnny Depp is not here, but you should see this version of Finding Neverland anyway. The show moved to Broadway this year with stars Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer, and it's still magical.
The Real Thing, Roundabout Theatre Company, American Airlines Theatre, New York, New York, October 17, 2014
I couldn't miss my chance to see one of my favorite actors in person last year when Ewan McGregor made his Broadway debut in Tom Stoppard's 1982 play The Real Thing. He was amazing (and made me weak in the knees), but so were his costars Cynthia Nixon, Josh Hamilton, and Maggie Gyllenhaal (who is a scene stealer with her own brand of awesomeness). Tom Stoppard's clever dialogue was so quickly delivered sometimes that I left the theatre wanting to read through and think about this play a bit longer. That's a sign of a good piece of work, right?
Aside from the stellar cast, I liked how music was incorporated into this story. Both acts began with the characters singing a song, and the first act ended with Ewan McGregor using a record player, the sound of which began normally but then amplified on speakers to close out the scene. I was also impressed by this show's innovative set. With an added bookshelf or two, some lighting changes, and new sounds, it successfully transported us among different homes and train rides out of town.
This story revolves around the relationships of two married couples, Charlotte and Henry (played by Cynthia Nixon and Ewan McGregor) and Annie and Max (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton). At the start, it's revealed that Annie and Max are having an affair. They divorce their spouses, marry each other, and create a new life together. Two years later, however, Henry begins to wonder whether Annie is being faithful and if their happy ending is really all they expected. Love is complicated!
This revival of The Real Thing had a limited 4-month engagement on Broadway. Here's information about it to give you a taste.