The musical “Finding Neverland” will be at Popejoy Hall for six performances. They are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13 and Friday, Dec. 14, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16. Popejoy is located in the UNM Center for the Arts.
Tickets are available at www.unm.tickets.com, at www.popejoypresents.com, by calling 925-5858, at ticket offices the UNM Bookstore and at The Pit (Dreamstyle Arena). For groups of 10 our more inquire at email@example.com.
By David Steinberg
The second national tour of the Broadway musical “Finding Neverland” flies onto the Popejoy Hall stage in mid-December. The musical tells how Scottish playwright/novelist J.M. Barrie found the inspiration for his 1904 play “Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” and its famous title character.
The character of Peter Pan is based on a real boy – Peter Llewelyn Davies – and his brothers. Barrie spent hours with the young boys, and their mother, a beautiful widow.
The family is happy to have the charming Barrie at their home, but the children’s grandmother, Mrs. du Maurier, dislikes Barrie and is displeased with the arrangement.
“At the start of the show, Barrie is a married man and he’s hanging out with my daughter, Sylvia, who has been a widow for a year. She needs to find a husband to take care of my grandkids. Now all of society is talking about my daughter as a promiscuous woman,” Emmanuelle Zeesman, who portrays Mrs. du Maurier, said in a phone interview.
“Really, du Maurier can be harsh but she is completely motivated by the love for her family.”
There’s one scene, Zeesman said, where du Maurier tells her daughter that she’s worried about her health, her reputation and her boys being raised properly to become men.
“She wants to do everything right for them,” Zeesman said of her character.
Zeesman has two songs that explain du Maurier’s changing attitude.
In Act I, Zeesman sings “Circus of Your Mind.” In it, she is telling Barrie to stay away from the family for the sake of the children and for the sake of Sylvia.
“Then by Act II, Barrie is divorced. So I start understanding him more and seeing the benefits he’s having on my family. I sing the song ‘The Neverland Reprise,’” she said.
Zeesman has been with the current national tour since rehearsals began in early September. The tour production previewed in Elmira, N.Y., opened Oct. 2 in Hershey, Pa., and runs through June 23.
The tour company will give six performances of “Finding Neverland” at Popejoy from Dec. 13 through Dec. 16.
Zeesman has living the life of a touring performer for about a dozen years.
Two years ago, for example, she played Aunt Em and understudied the Wicked Witch in a national tour of “Wizard of Oz.”
In a touring production of “Guys and Dolls” she portrayed Adelaide, a lead character.
“I love touring because I get to tour with my husband, David Hersh,” Zeesman said. “Once I did a tour without him at the beginning of our relationship. I said ‘No. I’m not happy.’ So we figured it out.”
Hersh is not a performer. He works in off-stage positions. For “Finding Neverland,” Hersh is the merchandise manager. For ‘Wizard of Oz’ he had the same position, and for ‘Guys and Dolls’ he did assistant props.
She loves being on the road but she also needs to maintain rituals that keep her grounded. Otherwise she feels unsteady moving from one city to the next.
“I write in a gratitude journal every day. I try to find a coffee shop in every city I’m in where I drink tea and read whatever book I happen to be reading. i also listen to classical music and light a candle before bed every night,” Zeesman said.
A native of Montreal, Zeesman grew up in Ottawa where she began performing in a children’s theater company.
“I was nine and completely fell in love with musical theater. My first role was Riff in ‘West Side Story.’ Yes, at age nine. At 10, I played Tevya in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’” she recalled.
She continued doing musicals at a performing arts high school and at the University of Windsor.
“Finding Neverland” is based on the Oscar-winning film of the same name and on Allan Knee’s play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan.”
Music and lyrics are by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, original choreography by Mia Michaels and book by James Graham.