The Scottish author J. M. Barrie created one of the most beloved characters in literature: a young lad who could fly with ease, rescue Indian princesses and bravely battle a slew of evil pirates. Peter Pan is renown for his courage and daring-do and his insistence that he never grow up.
To discover how Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet and Order of Merit, came to create a boy with such pluck and perseverance, set your sails directly for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, August 1 to Sunday, August 6 for "Finding Neverland." With book by James Graham, music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, choreography by Mia Michaels and direction by Diane Paulus, this new musical explores imagination and magic in a fantastical combination.
J. M. Barrie was deeply scarred by the death of his older brother in a skating accident when he was only six and he tried to become the perfect boy to help his grieving mother cope. Perhaps that explains in a small manner his obsession with a youngster who never grew up and had the powers to fly out of danger at will. While his marriage was an unhappy one, the author frequently took walks around London's Kensington Gardens with his Saint Bernard. He chanced upon a family of five rambunctious boys, the Llewelyn Davies brothers, in the late 1890's, and they became his newest inspiration for Peter Pan.
In his great desire for a family, J. M. Barrie insinuated himself in their lives, so much so that when their parents died he supported them financially. He became "Uncle Jim" and entertained Peter, Jack, George, Michael and Nicholas with fairy tales and make-believe stories. He subscribed to the notion that "Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."
Barrie's "Dedication to the Five" tells the story of how the play came to be: "I suppose I always knew that I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame... What a game we had of Peter before we clipped him small to make him fit the boards. He was the longest story on earth."
All the proceeds from the copyright of Pater Pan were left to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and continue to this day even though they should have expired years ago. For tickets ($22.50 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www..bushnell.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Sprinkle some fairy-dust as you come under the spell of J. M. Barrie who freely admitted that he never grew up and never wanted you to grow up either. Come play make-believe at the Bushnell.