Review: Finding Neverland

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

By Martin Morse Wooster: Over the years, I’ve probably seen more versions of Peter Pan than are good for me.  There were the movies, of course, and the live version of the original musical that aired on television a few years ago.  But I’ve seen a fair share of theatrical projects with the characters from Peter Pan.

A few years ago I saw Peter and the Starcatcher, a play by Broadway veteran Rick Elice based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  This is an entertaining prequel to Peter Pan, once you accept the premise that the character who became Captain Hook thinks in this play that he is Groucho Marx.  It’s not a musical, but a play with a few songs in it.

 More recently I saw a version of Peter Pan with this premise: “People like it when Peter Pan flies.  Why don’t we have a version where everyone flies!  You know, just like the Cirque de Soleil!”  They held it in a tent, in the area where the Cirque de Soleil performs in Washington, and the show was interrupted twice for performances by Chinese acrobats.

Finding Neverland is a different take on the story.  It’s not about Peter Pan, but about how J. M. Barrie came up with the ideas for Peter Pan.  It’s based on a 2004 film[1] that starred Johnny Depp as J. M. Barrie.  Freddie Highmore, currently starring on “The Good Doctor,” played one of the children.

How did a non-musical from 2004 get turned into a musical?  Cracking open the CD, we find, as the first sentence from the musical’s original director, Diane Paulus, “When Harvey Weinstein first approached me about creating a musical based on the Academy Award-winning film Finding Neverland…”

It turns out the Weinstein Company had a division devoted in turning films into plays.  From something I read in Playbill, I see that Weinstein Live Entertainment developed about 25 plays, of which Finding Neverland, which opened in Broadway in 2015, was their final project.  From Paulus’s comments, I gather that the Weinstein Company bought one draft of the musical and threw in more money to develop it.

I don’t know very much about the British people who created this musical.  James Graham, who wrote the book, is an experienced playwright.   I gather Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy, who wrote the score and the lyrics, come from rock and roll and this is their first musical.

Maybe it was because of its Weinstein origins, but the road show version of Finding Neverland is a non-Equity project that spent a little time in major cities and a lot of time in one-night stops in smaller places, including Orange Park, Florida and Orange, Texas.

The musical version of Finding Neverland begins in Kensington Gardens, where author J.M. Barrie is sitting in the park doing some writing.   Charles Frohman, the manager of the theater where Barrie’s plays are performed is after him because he’s blown his deadline and all his plays are becoming similar. 

 But Barrie sees kids playing pirates and becomes friends with them, their mother, and their adorable dog Porthos.  Frohman also provided inspiration.  “Tick tock,” Frohman says repeatedly, so Barrie thinks of clocks.  Then Frohman shakes his umbrella at him—and in the shadows, the umbrella looks just like a hook.

Finally, we learn that when Barrie was a little boy, his older brother David died ice-skating.  But Barrie was convinced that his brother ascended to a place called “Neverland,” where boys never grow old. So put it all together, the musical says, and you’ve got Peter Pan!

Well, no.  New Yorker staff writer Anthony Lane explains what really happened in this  2004 article on the release of the film Finding Neverland.  Barrie did indeed meet little boys—the Llewellyn Davies family—in Kensington Gardens in 1898. “Barrie talked with children, rather than at or down with them,” Lane writes, and he liked spending time with boys, not because he was a pedophile, but because he thought somehow that spending time with children would help him reach the child-like parts of his nature and push away all the stresses of adulthood.

“This plan of Barrie’s,” writes Lane, “may have been creepy and pathetic, but it was not a crime.”

So the first act of Finding Neverland is about a writer coming up with his ideas.  That doesn’t make for interesting drama, so the musical gives us lots of singing! And dancing! About following your dreams!  Because they’re your dreams!

Oh, and there’s a dog, who is named Porthos.  The dog, a golden doodle named Sammy, was more interesting and better behaved than most members of the cast.

The second half is about the staging of the first performance of Peter Pan, which gives the show a chance to recreate some of the famous scenes of the first part of Barrie’s play including scenes with a Peter Pan (Melody Rose) in a green outfit and strapped in a harness.  The best line was when one actor grumbles about getting into a dog suit.  “Why, I played Richard III in Drury Lane,” the actor huffs.

I wondered what he would think of the current version of Richard III in town, which promises twice as much blood as usual and a Swedish doom-rock score.

I thought Finding Neverland was slightly below average.  It wasn’t the worst musical I’ve seen[2] but it was uninspired and formulaic.  The cast was minimally competent; Jeff Sullivan as J.M. Barrie has a good voice, but he’s too nasal.  The other cast members showed why they haven’t gotten their Equity cards yet.

 I don’t think I’ll ever see Finding Neverland again, because I think this will be its only run.  But I’m sure someone else will come up with a line extension of the Peter Pan brand. If that play comes to Washington, I’m sure I’ll go see it.


[1] The film Finding Neverland was based in part on the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee.

[2] My all-time loser musical is Jekyll and Hyde:  The Musical.  Don’t get me started on how awful that musical was!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 27 Launches 3/5

The 27th issue Uncanny Magazine will be available on March 5.

Hugo Award-winning Publishers/Editors-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are proud to present the 27th issue of their 2016, 2017, and 2018 Hugo Award-winning online science fiction and fantasy magazine. As always, it features passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture, along with an award-winning monthly podcast featuring a story, poem, and interview from that issue. Stories from Uncanny Magazine have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards.

All of Uncanny Magazine’s content will be available in eBook versions on the day of release from Weightless Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. Subscriptions are always available through Amazon Kindle and Weightless Books. The free online content will be released in 2 stages — half on day of release and half on April 2. 

Uncanny Magazine Issue 27 Table of Contents

Cover

  • Christopher Jones – Traveler 

Editorial

  • The Uncanny Valley (3/5)

Fiction

  • Karen Osborne – “The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power” (3/5)
  • Tina Connolly – “A Sharp Breath of Birds” (3/5)
  • Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – “Every Song Must End” (3/5)
  • Marie Brennan – “V?s D?lend?” (4/2)
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – “On the Lonely Shore” (4/2)
  • T. Greenblatt – “Before the World Crumbles Away” (4/2)

Reprint

  • Aliette de Bodard – “The Dragon That Flew Out of the Sun” (3/5)

Essays

  • Tracy Townsend – “Courage to the Sticking Place: Connecting SF/F Students with Creators” (3/5)
  • Briana Lawrence – “All in Good Fun: How Fanfiction Reignited My Passion for Writing” (3/5)
  • Marissa Lingen – “That Never Happened: Misplaced Skepticism and the Mechanisms of Suspension of Disbelief” (4/2)
  • Suzanne Walker – “We Are What They Grow Beyond: Star Wars and the Extended Universe” (4/2)

Poetry

  • Beth Cato – “Childhood Memory from the Old Victorian House on Warner”  (3/5)
  • D.A. Xiaolin Spire s- “Taho” (3/5)
  • Cassandra Khaw – “things you don’t say to city witches” (4/2)
  • Sandi Leibowitz – “Wendy, Waiting” (4/2)
  • Chloe N. Clark – “Other Forms of Conjuring the Moon” (4/2)

Interviews

  • Caroline M. Yoachim Interviews Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (3/5)
  • Caroline M. Yoachim Interviews  A. T. Greenblatt  (4/2)

Podcasts

27A (3/5)

  • Karen Osborne- “The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power,” as read by Stephanie Malia Morris
  • Beth Cato- “Childhood Memory from the Old Victorian House on Warner,” as read by Erika Ensign
  • Lynne M. Thomas Interviews Karen Osborne

27B (4/2)

  • Marie Brennan- “V?s D?lend? ,” as read by Erika Ensign
  • Cassandra Khaw- “things you don’t say to city witches,” as read by Stephanie Malia Morris
  • Lynne M. Thomas Interviews Marie Brennan

Datlow Shares ToC for Best Horror of the Year, Volume 11

Ellen Datlow has revealed the table of contents for The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eleven, to be released in September by Night Shade.

  • “I Remember Nothing” by Anne Billson
  • “Monkeys on the Beach” by Ralph Robert Moore
  • “Painted Wolves” by Ray Cluley
  • “Shit Happens” by Michael Marshall Smith
  • “You Know How the Story Goes” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  • “Back Along the Old Track” by Sam Hicks
  • “Masks” by Peter Sutton
  • “The Donner Party” by Dale Bailey
  • “Milkteeth” by Kristi DeMeester
  • “Haak” by John Langan
  • “Thin Cold Hands” by Gemma Files
  • “A Tiny Mirror” by Eloise C. C. Shepherd
  • “I Love You Mary-Grace” by Amelia Mangan
  • “The Jaws of Ouroboros” by Steve Toase
  • “A Brief Moment of Rage” by Bill Davidson
  • “Golden Sun” by Kristi DeMeester, Richard Thomas, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt
  • “White Mare” by Thana Niveau
  • “Girls Without Their Faces On” by Laird Barron
  • “Thumbsucker” by Robert Shearman
  • “You Are Released” by Joe Hill
  • “Red Rain” by Adam-Troy Castro
  • “Split Chain Stitch” by Steve Toase
  • “No Exit” by Orrin Grey
  • “Haunt” by Siobhan Carroll
  • “Sleep” by Carly Holmes

[Thanks to Jason for the story.]

2019 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival Goes Bi-Coastal

The annual Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival for the first time since its inception will hold a bi-coastal gathering with films, premieres and panels in New York City, Los Angeles and Santa Ana, CA. Independent filmmakers will have a platform to tackle a variety of themes that empower the narratives of Philip K. Dick, whose work continues to serve as a profound mark on the literary and entertainment worlds.

The festival will open in New York City on Thursday, March 7th and Saturday, March 9th. “We have developed a strong following here,” said Daniel Abella, the founder and director of the festival. “Our fans have become loyal supporters of our films and platform so we acknowledge their support by bringing back great sci-fi year after year.” Features include Saku Sakamoto’s ARAGNE: Sign of Vermillion about a young woman’s discovery of a mysterious class of insects and the U.S. premiere of Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited, the remastered version of Kent Smith and Tom Huckabee’s post-apocalyptic 1983 film starring Bill Paxton. Then, a lone survivor searches for answers after the human race vanishes in the World Premiere of John Norby’s Assimilation.

The West Coast edition of the festival will run in partnership with Media Arts Santa Ana (MASA), a non-profit organization that supports its community’s cultural empowerment through special resources and initiatives. Dick, the festival’s namesake, was a resident of the city in his final years and wrote several of his last major works there. It will help create discussion about how Santa Ana and Orange County influenced Philip K. Dick’s vision and celebrate one of Santa Ana’s most treasured and influential artists.

Festivities begin on Thursday, March 14th in Los Angeles. “Blade Runner is set in L.A. in 2019,” said Abella when referring to the 1982 adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? “There is no better honor than by holding the festival in the very city and year depicted in one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.” Screening titles include Matthew Evan Balz’s Corvus, which follows a woman’s perilous efforts to build a machine capable of hypnosis and the depiction of extant technology in Emily Dean’s Andromeda about an android’s awakening of human emotions. Closing the night is Josh Gibson’s atmospheric Pig Film about a woman’s work on a hog farm during the impending end of the world.

The festival then opens in Santa Ana, CA from Friday, March 15th through Sunday, March 17th. Essential films include Unzipping, the cinematic directorial debut of actress and writer Lisa Edelstein about the poignant unfastening of a marriage and Star Trek veteran Walter Koenig’s confrontation with fate in Michael Baker’s Who is Martin Danzig? Holding its World Premiere is Tony Dean Smith’s mind-bending thriller Volition about a clairvoyant man’s quest to avoid his own murder and the U.S. and L.A. Premiere of Sarah K. Reimers’ Bitten about a dog’s rabid night of risk and adventure. Dive Odyssey kicks off a lineup of feverish documentaries as Janne Kasperi Suhonen takes viewers on an absorbing aquatic journey and Colin Ramsay and James Uren decipher what makes “good” artificial intelligence in the dawn of ethics and technology in Good in the Machine.

Observing the 90th anniversary of Philip K. Dick’s birth and the 50th anniversary of Blade Runner’s origin novel, the two organizations joined forces for the Philip K. Dick Multicultural Dystopian/Sci Fi Short Film Challenge, a short film competition that invited participants to develop projects that analyze contemporary life in view of themes associated with Philip K. Dick.

The festival’s expansion has also furthered its commitment to feature a more inclusive brand of filmmaking with 31 percent of the official selections directed or co-directed by women and minority filmmakers. Many films are seen from the perspectives of racially and gender diverse characters. “There is a new freshness entering the genre,” said Abella, who curated an equality-driven showcase of films from the emerging talent strengthening the industry. “Science fiction is based on exploring the ‘other’ and no one is more qualified than those groups who have been marginalized to tell their story using the tools of sci-fi.”

The PKD Film Festival schedule follows the jump.

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HWA Announces 2019 Summer Scares Reading List

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) announces the first annual Summer Scares Reading List. In celebration of National Library Lover’s Day, the HWA joins with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal for this event. The reading list includes titles selected by a panel of authors and librarians, and it is designed to promote horror as a superb reading option for all ages.

The Summer Scares program seeks to introduce horror titles to school and public librarians and to open a dialogue between libraries and readers about the horror genre. A goal of the program is to facilitate the promotion of horror beyond the books on each year’s reading list and encourage reading for years to come.

Along with the annual list of recommended titles for readers of all ages, the Summer Scares committee will release themed lists of “read-alike” titles for libraries to use when suggesting books to readers. Helping libraries forge stronger connections between books and readers, the Summer Scares committee will work with the recommended authors and writers nationwide, providing free programming to libraries. From author visits (in person and virtual) to book discussions to horror themed events, Summer Scares focuses on connecting horror writers with libraries and readers all year.

Each year, three titles will be chosen in the Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade categories. This year’s Summer Scares reading list for 2019 is as follows:

ADULT

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2017)

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due (Harper Voyager, 1998)

Earthworm Gods by Brian Keene (Deadite Press, 2012)

YOUNG ADULT

Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Ember, 2012)

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (Speak, 2016)

Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow (Penguin Random House Publisher Services, 2015)

MIDDLE GRADE

Doll Bones Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015)

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014)

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin Young Readers, 2016)

The Summer Scares program committee includes award-winning author Grady Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, Paperbacks from Hell), Becky Spratford (library consultant, author of The Readers Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd Ed.), Carolyn Ciesla (library director, academic dean, book reviewer), Kiera Parrott (reviews director for Library Journal and School Library Journal), Kelly Jensen (editor, Book Riot, author of [Don’t] Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health), and JG Faherty (HWA Library Program director, author of The Cure and Carnival of Fear).

For more information about the Summer Scares reading program, including how to obtain promotional materials and schedule events with the authors/committee members, visit the HWA’s Libraries web page (www.horror.org/libraries), Becky Spratford’s Reader’s Advisory Horror Blog RA for All: Horror, the Library Journal, Book Riot, School Library Journal, or United for Libraries websites and social media sites. You can also contact JG Faherty, HWA Library Program Director (libraries@horror.org), or Becky Spratford, HWA Secretary (bspratford@hotmail.com).

The HWA will also host a special Library Day program at its annual StokerCon™ event, which will be held May 9-12 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Several of the authors from the Summer Scares reading list, as well as the committee members, will be in attendance.

[Based on a press release.]

Neil Clarke Releases ToC for Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 4

Neil Clarke has unveiled the table of contents for his The Best Science Fiction of the Year – Volume 4, which features science fiction short stories/novelettes/novellas originally published in 2018. The cover art is Mack Sztaba’s “Behemoth.”

Table of Contents

  • “When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld Magazine, October 2018)
  • “Intervention” by Kelly Robson (Infinity’s End, edited by Jonathan Strahan)
  • “All the Time We’ve Left to Spend” by Alyssa Wong (Robots vs. Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe)
  • “Domestic Violence” by Madeline Ashby (Slate, March 26, 2018)
  • “Ten Landscapes of Nili Fossae” by Ian McDonald (2001: An Odyssey in Words, edited by Ian Whates and Tom Hunter)
  • “Prophet of the Roads” by Naomi Kritzer (Infinity’s End, edited by Jonathan Strahan)
  • “Traces of Us” by Vanessa Fogg (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2018)
  • “Theories of Flight” by Linda Nagata (Asimov’s Science Fiction, November/December 2018)
  • “Lab B-15” by Nick Wolven (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March/April 2018)
  • “Requiem” by Vandana Singh (Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, Small Beer Press)
  • “Sour Milk Girls” by Erin Roberts (Clarkesworld Magazine, January 2018)
  • “Mother Tongues” by S. Qiouyi Lu (Asimov’s Science Fiction, January/February 2018)
  • “Singles’ Day” by Samantha Murray (Interzone, September/October 2018)
  • “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, September 19, 2018)
  • “The Buried Giant” by Lavie Tidhar (Robots vs. Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe)
  • “The Anchorite Wakes” by R.S.A. Garcia (Clarkesworld Magazine, August 2018)
  • “Entropy War” by Yoon Ha Lee (2001: An Odyssey in Words, edited by Ian Whates and Tom Hunter)
  • “An Equation of State” by Robert Reed (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2018)
  • “Quantifying Trust” by John Chu (Mother of Invention, edited by Rivqa Rafael and Tansy Rayner Roberts)
  • “Hard Mary” by Sofia Samatar (Lightspeed Magazine, September 2018)
  • “Freezing Rain, a Chance of Falling” by L.X. Beckett (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2018)
  • “Okay, Glory” by Elizabeth Bear (Twelve Tomorrows, edited by Wade Roush)
  • “Heavy Lifting” by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2018)
  • “Lions and Gazelles” by Hannu Rajaniemi (Slate, September 27, 2018)
  • “Different Seas” by Alastair Reynolds (Twelve Tomorrows, edited by Wade Roush)
  • “Among the Water Buffaloes, a Tiger’s Steps” by Aliette de Bodard (Mechanical Animals, edited by Selena Chambers and Jason Heller)
  • “Byzantine Empathy” by Ken Liu (Twelve Tomorrows, edited by Wade Roush)
  • “Meat and Salt and Sparks” by Rich Larson (Tor.com, June 6, 2018)
  • “Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, February 2018)

The book’s release date is July 2.

[Thanks to Jason for the story.]

Editor of Hungarian Prozine Galaktika Steps Down, But Denies Piracy

By Bence Pintér: As you may remember, a few years ago I uncovered the blatant copyright infringement case of Hungarian SF magazine Galaktika. Now, three years later the editor-in-chief has stepped down, but not because of that case: he wrote in a letter in the January issue that he is a feminist, so he is stepping down to give place for a female editor, who is in fact his wife. (It is also funny, because in the last decade he and publishing house he owns published the anti-feminist book A helyes asszonytartás, which roughly translates as “The Good Way of Female Husbandry”.)

Anyways, he gave an interview, which can be interesting for authors who followed the case. I translated the relevant section quickly:

SFportal: There was a copyright infringement scandal few years ago. Did you manage to sort out things? Did you considered this problem when you decided to step down?

Burger István: There was no scandal, it was fake news. A malicious blogger tried to smear Galaktika. I think it was because we did not publish something he wrote, or he thought that he can gain some readership with these sensationalist articles.

For a start, it was pathetic lie to state that Galaktika had stolen from writers deliberately. We paid 400,000$ for rights to authors and agencies, while this whole debate was about 4000$. That’s just 1 percent of the whole sum. I don’t think that anyone with good intentions think that for that 1 percent we would steal from authors. That makes no sense. We made a mistake, but our error was only that we thought that we can reprint short stories by authors whose books we published. That was a mistake, but you should know that agencies do not like to deal with the 10-20 $ sum of short story rights. Since then we learned that we have to contact the authors directly. Anyways, we are over this. My persecution was a factor in the decision to step down. I would rather take the responsibility for this issue, so they can’t blame Galaktika further.”

He is a genius, this guy. So he said that they paid 400,000 for rights, but that all was for book rights. They simply didn’t pay for almost all of the short stories. He also wants everyone to think that they published short stories just by authors whose books they published, but that’s not the case. They published short stories by 348 authors in this period, while they published books by a fraction of that number.

[For more background information see “Authors Guild and SFWA Reach Agreement with Galaktika Magazine on Infringement Claims”.]