According to Mia Michaels, life is always coming full circle in a serendipitous way, and her Broadway debut as a choreographer only enforces that belief. The new musical Finding Neverland sees her reunited with former dance student and old friend, Matthew Morrison ("Glee," South Pacific).
"Matt is a dancer first. He used to take my class in New York back in the day. In the 90's. It's coming back full circle," she says. "He was Matty Fresh."
Michaels says she always knew that the star possessed a special quality. "He was always a hard worker and always had a talent, " she says. "He's a hard worker to this day, no matter how successful he's become, he still has an amazing work ethic and does not settle for mediocrity. Neither do I. We push and push."
It was this determination that saw Michaels finally break into the Broadway world after years of "putting it in the universe." "I had done television for almost ten years and I had wanted to do musical theatre," she says. "It's a very small community and you have to be asked to come into it." Michaels' critically acclaimed and award-winning work put her in the sights of Diane Paulus, who contacted the choreographer directly and asked her to be involved with Finding Neverland, joining a creative team that includes pop sensation Gary Barlow, songwriter Eliot Kennedy, playwright James Graham and heavyweight producer Harvey Weinstein.
Based on the Academy Award-winning film of the same name, Finding Neverland follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he discovers the inner courage to become the writer and the man that he longs to be. Barrie, played by Morrison, finds the spark he's been missing when he encounters his soul mate, the widowed Sylvia, played by Laura Michelle Kelly (Mary Poppins) and her four young sons. The youngest, Peter, will ultimately come to inspire one of the greatest fairy tales ever told: Peter Pan.
"I came to a reading and fell madly in love with the project," says Michaels. "I was weeping the whole time, and I knew that it was very special and that I had to do it."
Michaels says that working on Broadway is "very different" than what she was accustomed to. "I was used to directing myself, doing my own thing and running with it." The biggest surprise for her has been learning to really embrace the teamwork nature of theatre. "I knew it was a big collaboration but it is a machine," she says. "You have to be a great collaborator to do musical theatre…it's a constant creative force with the whole team."
Matthew Morrison, Laura Michelle Kelly, Kelsey Grammer Thrill With High-Energy Preview of Finding Neverland
Michaels has found a particular synergy with Paulus, who won a Tony Award for her direction of Pippin. "I love it because I feel like where I'm weak, she's strong and vice versa so we have a great sisterhood, a great creative collaboration together. So much respect and love." The two have already begun working on their next project, A.R.T.'s production of new musical Waitress, which is already garnering talk of a potential Broadway transfer.
Michaels is adamant that she is not leaving the world of musical theatre now that she's had a taste. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm here to stay," she says. "I'm so madly in love with this community and the world of musical theatre. I've never been more fulfilled creatively…it's everything I've dreamt of. It's the first time in a long time that I feel I have a family again."
For more information on Finding Neverland visit findingneverlandthemusical.com