When an actor with a body of work as rich and storied as John Davidson says a show is the most enjoyable experience he's had in a role, you know that outlook has weight to it. The Broadway and television veteran got his acting start more than 50 years ago and has starred as the Wizard in "Wicked," Harold Hill in "The Music Man" (formerly his most fun role, he says) and was the TV host of "The Hollywood Squares" and "That's Incredible!" among others.
"I've done a lot of tours and a lot of shows, but I've never played a dual role. It's a great challenge for anyone at any age, and it is exhausting, but it is the most fun that I've ever had on any show," Davidson says of his two characters in the touring Broadway production of "Finding Neverland."
WHEN — 7 p.m. Dec. 19-20; 1:30 & 7 p.m. Dec. 21; 8 p.m. Dec. 22; 2 & 8 p.m. Dec. 23
WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
COST — $44-$93
INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org
FYI — Recommended for ages 7 and older.
“Finding Neverland” has two additional opportunities for engagement. As part of the Broadway Book Club, guests can meet at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 to discuss the book “Peter Pan” prior to seeing the show. Broadway Box Lunch is also available as an add-on before the Dec. 21 matinee performance. Visit waltonartscenter.org/event/finding-neverland for details on both.
The story of playwright and "Peter Pan" author J.M. Barrie, "Finding Neverland" follows Barrie's inspiration for and creation of the story at a time when society frowned on children coming to the theater. Besides, "children don't have money; children can't buy tickets," Davidson says of producer Charles Frohman's reasons for discouraging Barrie from carrying out the work.
"Frohman is basically trying to talk him out of doing it, and Captain Hook is saying go for it -- find yourself and fight for what you want. Don't just be what everyone expects you to be; be your own person. So they are opposites in that way," Davidson shares. Frohman's influence in Barrie's real life, and Hook's in his imagination, epitomize a struggle most can empathize with, if not have experienced themselves in one way or another.
"It's really about creativity," Davidson reveals. "There are two basic themes in the show that come through: one is that any person who's creating anything needs to not be afraid of finding the child in themselves. We're told to pull it together, be an adult, and that's how you succeed. But sometimes, the greatest artists have found the child in themselves and that's how they've succeeded, and that's what Barrie does.
"And the second idea," he goes on, "is actually something Captain Hook says to Barrie: 'If a man is not willing to fight for what he wants, he deserves what he gets.'"
The impact Davidson's two characters have over Barrie and his decisions make Frohman and Hook active plot devices in driving the narrative forward -- a position Davidson can relate to in his own life.
"I tend to be an instigator rather than just a dreamer," he says of connecting with the characters. "I would hate to play a wallflower, or a role that's quiet; I love being bombastic. So it gives me a chance to really tear up the scenery. It's fun."
That tearing of scenery, and perhaps sanity, manifests more in the moments Davidson brings Hook to life on stage. But that doesn't make Frohman dull by comparison: "Frohman is fun-loving. He was a real man and very positive -- great sense of humor. But Hook is really crazy," Davidson enthuses. "I play him almost demented at times. So it's fun being crazy; you can be almost anything you want to be."
To hear Davidson's description of the "Finding Neverland" -- "a hit song in every scene," fantasy, surprises, a real family show, a great love story -- it seems the show itself gets to be anything it wants, as well.
"It's a great example of American musical theater, and yet the music is pop music. It's not Sondheim; it's not Rodgers and Hammerstein," he asserts. "You get the feeling you know the melodies immediately -- it's very singable music. It's a real crowd-pleaser, very theatrical -- sometimes it's really bigger than life."
NAN What's Up on 12/17/2017
Print Headline: An Inspirational Hook