The Child Within

Entertainer John Davidson’s two roles drive Finding Neverland, a musical about finding the courage to be yourself.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel courtesy Celebrity Attractions

During childhood, you likely heard or watched the story of Peter Pan; what you probably didn’t learn was how this prolific character came to be.

Finding Neverland: The Musical, based upon a film of the same name, explores the life of Peter Pan’s creator, J.M. Barrie, and the experiences that inspired his iconic character. The Celebrity Attractions’ show comes to the Tulsa PAC March 6-11.

John Davidson, a member of the show’s national touring cast, says the musical brings more to the table for audiences than the film.

“I think people will find – if they’re familiar with the movie – that the musical is much funnier,” says Davidson, a widely seen TV entertainer in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. “It’s more entertaining, more powerful. It is a very powerful story.”

Davidson’s experience on the show is unique. He plays both Charles Frohman, the theater producer hell-bent on keeping Barrie’s theatrical version of Peter Pan off his stage, and the nefarious, conniving Captain Hook. Davidson has held countless roles on and off Broadway – from Oklahoma! to Man of La Mancha – but has never experienced a dual role quite like this. He says his two characters pull Barrie in separate directions during the show.

“When I’m playing Frohman, I’m trying to get Barrie to not write Peter Pan. In 1904, no one wanted a play about children. They didn’t want children in the theater – the thinking was, they have no money,” he says. “But as Captain Hook, I’m trying to get him to do that very thing – to write his own story. In both cases, I’m driving the show, and Barrie, forward.”

His two roles contrast wildly – in posture, dialect and motivation – but Davidson says he doesn’t struggle with the quick transition.

“I go back and forth twice,” he says. “I don’t know why, but that [character] change comes quickly. You get into the whole thing – the hook, the sword, the pirate hat, the boots – you start to walk like a pirate and you say really gross things. The metamorphosis takes place, and you just slip into it.”

A 45-week contract keeps Davidson on the road for months at a time, but he makes the most of it.

“Most of the cast flies city to city, but my wife and I travel on the road with our dog,” he says. “I look forward to coming back to Tulsa. I’m a big Will Rogers fan; I’ve done Will Rogers Follies three times. I used to go to the Will Rogers Museum to pick up tips for the show.”

Davidson hopes people leave Finding Neverland with a sense of empowerment to be whatever they want to be.

“At the end of the first act, Hook says, ‘A man who is not willing to fight for what he wants deserves what he gets.’ You can be what everyone expects you to be, or find the courage to write your own story,” he says. “You have to write your own story and find the child within.”

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