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FINDING NEVERLAND

Peter Pan: The Play
For years, children and adults alike have fallen in love with J.M Barrie's world-renowned play "Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up,” which celebrates its 100th anniversary in December 2004. The legendary tale follows the adventures of the Darling children – Wendy, John and Michael – as they journey to a far-off land where fairies exist, anyone can fly and magic and mischief of all kinds abound in an Eden where time itself is suspended. It was said that at the opening performance of "Peter Pan” an audience of mostly adults clapped so exuberantly to register their belief in fairies it caused the actress playing Peter to burst into tears. Shouts for curtain calls lasted late into the night.

Right from the start, Barrie lets the audience know that things are going to be a bit fantastic as he introduces a family that, despite leading fairly typical Edwardian London lives, has a dog for a nanny who makes the family beds with her teeth! Soon, the children receive a most unusual visitor in their Bloomsbury apartment: a boy named Peter Pan, hunting for his lost shadow, who claims to have completely avoided growing up. Like his fairy companion, Tinker Bell, Peter can fly and teaches the exhilarating skill to the three Darling children. Having learned to believe in the impossible, the children soar off with Peter Pan to his island paradise: Neverland.

On the island of Neverland, the Darlings meet the Lost Boys, Peter's band of child warriors who, along with a tribe of Indians, are battling against the cutthroat pirate, Captain Hook. After Wendy takes on the role of mother to the Lost Boys, Hook captures her and her new family. In one of the play's most famous scenes, Wendy is saved from "walking the plank” by Peter's bravery and Hook is eaten by his nemesis, a ticking crocodile who once swallowed a clock, as good triumphs over evil once again.

Back at the nursery, the Darlings' parents are waiting with the window open, searching forlornly for their missing children. Peter tries to prevent the children from returning, but they succeed in getting home. And though, as Peter has warned them, they are destined to grow up and grow old, they will carry with them the wonder and magic of their experience forever.

From its opening night at the Duke of York's Theatre on December 27, 1904, "Peter Pan” was an instant cultural phenomenon and drew acclaim for its innovative and unprecedented staging involving audience interaction. It also was clear that there was much more to the story than just a child's grand adventure. Through its Broadway premiere on October 20, 1954 (with Mary Martin in the title role) and still today, the play's themes resonate equally with adults and children, and the combination of irresistible storytelling and timeless relevancy has made it a classic of literature – read as avidly in nurseries as in universities -- for a hundred years and counting.

The story of the Darling children's flight into Neverland pits childish innocence against pirate evil but also fantasy against reality, freedom against middle-class propriety, and unbridled adventure against the comforts of family and home. To this day, critics and literary experts continue to debate Barrie's intentions– and whether he felt that, in the end, not growing up was a triumph or a bittersweet tragedy in the modern world.

For Marc Forster, the most inspiring part of "Peter Pan” is the one that has inspired FINDING NEVERLAND – as he puts it, "that a great story can take audiences as far as their imaginations will go.”

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