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“Finding Neverland” Finds Its Mark at DPAC

Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in Finding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel _IMG_4741

Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in Finding Neverland
(Photo courtesy Jeremy Daniel)

We all know the story about the boy who never grows up, but “Finding Neverland” tells the touching tale of how the story of Peter Pan came to be. The musical starts with J.M. Barrie (played by Billy Harrigan Tighe) as a playwright in crisis. He desperately needs to come up with a new play after realizing his latest work is nothing more that a retread of his previous productions. As he walks through London’s Kensington Park he finds inspiration in a young widow, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (played by Christine Dwyer) and her four young rambunctious boys. What follows is a mixture of courage, pain, and magic resulting in the story of a mischievous young boy who can fly that has stood the test of time for over 113 years.

The Cast of Finding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel IMG_2418

The Cast of Finding Neverland
(Photo courtesy Jeremy Daniel)

But this is London in the early 1900’s. Things are supposed to be prim and proper. Children are seen and not heard, theater is for the upper crust of society, and Barry must also contend with a snobby group of actors in the theater troupe who are chomping at the bit for their next gig. Change doesn’t come easy and he finds resistance at every turn as he tries to bring the whimsical story of magic and make believe to the London stage. Not to mention people begin to talk when he starts spending too much time with the young widow leaving his socialite wife stewing at home.

Enter the Captain Hook (played by Rory Donovan), conjured out of Barrie’s imagination. Hook is there to get Barrie to to “pirate up” and take a chance on the play and life itself. “A man who doesn’t fight for what he wants in life gets what he deserves” belows Hook. Embolden by his alter ego Barrie overcomes the many obstacles in his way and brings the show to a successful opening and become a surrogate father to the boys.

The Cast of FInding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel IMG_2953

The Cast of Finding Neverland
(Photo courtesy Jeremy Daniel)



There are many great moments in, “Finding Neverland” many of which are when the young men who play the Llewelyn Davies boys are on stage. They did a fantastic job with complex performances and vocals beyond their years. On Tuesday night, Mitchell Wray played Peter, with Finn Faulconer as George, Tyler Hennessy as Jack; and Jordan Cole rounded out the foursome as Michael. All the more impressive is the fact that the boys rotate their roles meaning they have to be prepared for different lines and opposite cues on varying nights as they fill the different roles each night.

Performances by the leads were all very strong with wonderful vocals from Tighe and Dwyer. And while there were some sad moments sprinkled about (learning to deal with loss) there were also lots of laughs, many of which come from the over-the-top acting troupe Barrie must deal with. Keep and ear out for a particular exchange when one of the boys asks one of the troupe if he believes in fairies. It had the audience roaring.

The special effects in the show were simple yet elegant and compliment the story well rather than become a distraction. A real treat during the show is how moments of inspiration for the story of Peter Pan are slowly revealed to Barrie as he interacts with the world around him. Whether it is suddenly seeing playing children magically flying about the bedroom in slow motion, or the shadow of a menacing cane taking on the form of a pirates hook, you get to see the sparks of the iconic tale begin to brew in mind of the playwright. The effects in the final act are particularly moving.

This is a show for the whole family. While I have heard some describe it as a little dark I did not find that to be the case at all. In fact I think it is both a great way to introduce children to theater. It also has powerful messages for how we can all use our imagination to see the magic in the world around use and harness that magic to both deal with loss and find our courage to endure and go after our dreams.

“Finding Neverland” is at DPAC now with performances through Sunday, May 28th. For tickets visit

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Weekend Picks: May 26th – 28th

La TErza2

La Terza Classe performs at Sola Coffee Friday night at 7:30pm
(photo courtesy La Terza Classe)

After this rainy and gloomy week I am looking forward to the nicer weather this weekend. Here are a few of my top picks to check out including great music and the third annual hot air balloon festival! Also, “Finding Neverland” has performances at DPAC through this Sunday. Lots of choices this weekend. Happy Exploring!

Friday – May 26th

Italian folk and bluegrass band at Sola Coffee
An Italian bluegrass band? This sounds fun! La Terza Classe makes a tour stop Friday night at Sola Coffee in North Raleigh. Music starts at 7:30pm. The band has played over 300 shows in in throughout Europe and in the US, have been featured on European and American radio. Props to Sola for continuing to bring great touring acts to Raleigh.

Saturday – May 27th

WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival (All Weekend)
The Balloon Festival will be held on Memorial Day weekend from May 26-29 at Fleming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina. The three day event will feature competitive balloon flights, tethered balloon rides, evening glows and a several activities planned from sunrise to sundown. Visit for schedule of events and parking information.

Sunday – May 28th

Triangle Wind Ensemble at Cary’s Booth Amphitheater
This year’s American Celebration concert features selections from many of Broadway’s most famous shows. Come listen to works from Beauty and the Beast, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, South Pacific, Wicked, Les Miserables, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit, Hamilton. This outdoor concert offers a perfect opportunity to picnic under the stars with the family while listening to some truly wonderful music. Gates open for picnicking at 6pm, and the concert begins at 7:30. Tickets for this event can be purchased here ($13-$16).

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NCMA Launches Mobile App to Provide Self-Guided Tours


NCMA mobile app 

The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) this week launched a new mobile app that offers themed, self-guided audio tours of the Museum’s permanent collection. Each tour lasts about 30 minutes and features art in the Museum’s free permanent collection. The free app is available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded through the iTunes Store or at

“This mobile app will encourage NCMA visitors to slow down in the permanent collection galleries and look more closely at the works of art—something we hope will enhance and deepen their appreciation of the art and make their Museum visit a more memorable, personal experience,” says Lawrence J. Wheeler, director of the NCMA. “It perfectly aligns with the mission and vision of the NCMA, which focuses on our commitment to provide compelling encounters with art, present innovative educational opportunities, and enrich lives through the wonder of art.”

The app launches with three themed tours—Curator’s Choice, Lunch Break, and Date Night—and the Museum may add more in the future.

  • Curator’s Choice: What is a curator? In art museums curators choose the works of art that go into an exhibition. They also assist in acquiring works for a museum’s collection. Each part of our collection is curated by an expert in a particular period of art history. Listen to a tour from each part of our collection with that curator’s top picks.
  • Lunch Break: Experts say changing up your environment can help overcome mental blocks and re-energize your thinking. This tour lets you experience art and food from around the world while taking a quick break from the day. Are you hungry for art? Why wait?
  • Date Night: In today’s world of swiping right and posting “It’s complicated,” romance can be tough. Luckily, wandering the galleries of a museum is a great way to spend time with someone special to you. Whether you’re on your first date or going on your first decade as a couple, listen to a tour all about romance and love—as interpreted by artists throughout time.

“This new technology will help us better connect and engage with visitors on our campus in a whole new way,” says Michelle Harrell, the NCMA’s director of teaching and learning. “We see the mobile app as an opportunity to provide customizable experiences, rather than simple audio tours. It introduces art in a manner that many people might not have considered before—for example, as something that can energize you on a lunch break or spice up a date night.”

The mobile app replaces the Museum’s cell phone tour, which is no longer available. It joins the Museum’s Moede app, an interactive work of art designed by Kael Greco and Gregg Perkins that creates a soundtrack to a visitor’s experience in the NCMA’s Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park.


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Picture of the Week: Old Well at UNC

Old Well – 2017

Over the weekend my wife and I did some exploring in Chapel Hill. I took the above picture of the famous Old Well while walking across the UNC campus. It’s a well known landmark for sure, but it got me thinking about its significance. So I did a little digging online find out more about its history.  I learned that the well was commissioned by the Board of Trustees back in 1795 and served as the sole drinking water source for the university for a number of years.

In 1897, university President Edwin Alderman proposed building a new structure over the well. According to Wikipedia “The current decorative form of the Old Well was modeled after the Temple of Love in the Gardens of Versailles“. The structure was designed by Eugene Lewis Harris, a portrait artist and registrar for the university. A drinking water fountain was added in 1925 which is now served by city water. In 1954 the structure over the well was torn down and replaced with a sturdier replica that stands today.

If you are the superstitious type, campus tradition states that drinking from the Old Well on the first day of class will bring good luck and good grades!

Old Well

Old Well – 1892
(Photograph from the Kemp Battle Album, North Carolina Collection, UNC)

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The Magic of “Finding Neverland” Comes to DPAC May 23-28th!

Finding Neverland1

Bill Harrigan Tighe as JM Barrie and Tom Hewitt as Captain Hook in Finding Neverland
(Photo courtesy Jeremy Daniel)

This week the spirit of imagination comes to the stage when “Finding Neverland” opens at the Durham Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, May 23rd with performance through Sunday, May 29th.

Based on the Academy Award winning film of the same name, the musical follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he summons the courage to become the writer and the man he yearns to be. Barrie finds the inspiration he’s been missing when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her four young sons.

Finding Neverland3

Ben Krieger as Peter Lleweln Davies and Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the National Tour of Finding Neverland
(Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg)

Delighted by the boys’ hilarious escapades, Barrie uses the boys’ escapades to fulfill his dreams of becoming a writer. Inventing the world of Neverland and its imaginary inhabitants and in the process creates an original play that becomes a high-society hit.

The musical is packed with mesmerizing visuals, irresistible songs and plenty of laughs. It is a timeless story about the power of imagination and proof that you never really have to grow up.

Finding Neverland2

Mitchell Wray, Jordan Cole, Finn Faulconer and Ben Krieger as the Llewelyn Davies Boys in the National Tour of Finding Neverland
(Photo courtesy Carol Rosegg)

In this touring production, the role of Captain Hook is played by Broadway Veteran Tom Hewitt.  He took a moment to chat with me by phone recently between productions.

Hewitt started performing in his small hometown in Western Montana where he made the most of a great local theater seen and benefited from a loving and supportive family. “I am very thankful to my parents for allowing me to pursue theater as a kid. They were very supportive and really there is nothing more magical.”

Hewitt has made a career of playing bad guys and monsters, including on Broadway Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar; Billy Flynn in Chicago; Dracula in Dracula and he has also played Scar in The Lion King. But he brings a unique perspective to playing Barrie’s inner Hook, given that he also played the Captain Hook in both the 1998 and 2011 national touring productions.

But this is a different Captain Hook than you’ve seen before. “This Hook is a is a facet of Barrie’s personality. His job is to encourage Barrie to “pirate up” if you will, explore his darker side and write his own story – basically he helps him find his courage and conviction,” says Hewitt.

“This really is a show for the entire family,” says Hewitt. “It is a show about a show focusing on love, family, and finding the strength to go after what you believe. And along the way there is little humor and special effects added to enhance the wonder”. When I asked about the special effects Hewitt explained that they are beautiful in their simplicity. “I love the way that flying is handled in the show, it is unapologetically theatrical. I am sentimental and it always moves me,” admits Hewitt.

The magic of “Finding Neverland” opens at DPAC on Tuesday, May 23rd and runs through Sunday, May 28th. For tickets visit

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