Think Lovely Thoughts! What It Was Like Inside Neverland's Magical After Party

Opening Night   Think Lovely Thoughts! What It Was Like Inside Neverland's Magical After Party
 
Finding Neverland, the new Broadway musical starring "Glee" alum Matthew Morrison, opened on Broadway April 15.
Carolee Carmello, Laura Michelle Kelly and Teal Wicks
Carolee Carmello, Laura Michelle Kelly and Teal Wicks Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Hi ho, the glamorous life! After Finding Neverland at the Lunt-Fontanne April 15, well-turned-out Broadway first-nighters found themselves back riding the R-train rails two stops for a second opening-night party there this week. This time it was to the sprawling, imposing Metropolitan Club at 1 East 60th and Fifth Avenue, next to The Pierre, which three days earlier was the site of the An American in Paris bash.

A manse of many rooms — most of them reserved for investors, producers, cast and crew but fit for endless roaming and red-velvet staircase-climbing while a rock-centric DJ played on and on and on (but nothing from the show) — The Metropolitan Club is the sort of top-drawer, high-end place you'd expect to celebrate A Harvey Happening.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein marks his Main Stem debut as a lead producer with Finding Neverland, which turned out to be pretty hard for him to find, even though he executive-produced the original flick that contended for seven Oscars, including Best Picture of 2004. There are many more successful Weinstein films, but this was his daughter's favorite, so, cued by the one Oscar it did win (Jan A.P. Kaczmarek's original score), he took it from the top again as an original Broadway musical. His modus operandi was right out of the movies: retakes. Although the musical hues slavishly close to the Oscar-nominated screenplay David Magee made from Allan Knee's Off-Broadway play, The Man Who Was Peter Pan, British playwright James Graham is credited with the musical book; theatre tunesmiths Scott Frankel and Michael Korie (Grey Gardens, Far From Heaven) were replaced by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy of the U.K. band, Take That; Diane Paulus took over for Rob Ashford as director, and the two leading male characters — playwright J.M. Barrie and producer Charles Frohman — were recast for New York (Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer instead of Jeremy Jordan and Michael McGrath in Boston).

So it's safe to assume that Weinstein handpicked the after-party site as well. Particularly private was a room where Bryan Cranston, one of the celebrity investors who threw in with Weinstein, hosted a party. "I saw a workshop of it downtown last year when I was doing All the Way," he confessed. "It's a really magical show. It has the ability to transport audiences back to five-to-ten-years-old."

No word whether he'll be back to sequel his Tony-winning portrayal of LBJ in Robert Schenkkan's The Great Society, Part II of that biographical drama. Right now Cranston is busy growing a bushy mustache that makes him look somewhere between a Mexican bandito and Robert Goulet. It's for a movie, set in the '80s.

Darren Criss was heavily hirsute, too, insisting with a wickedly straight face that he was "definitely gong to keep" the beard when he began April 29 as Hedwig. "I think we all witnessed a really magical opening this evening," the first-nighter crowed.

Laura Michelle Kelly put on a chill-defying, happy face. "This is wonderful," she chirped. "I'm having the most exquisite evening." She plays Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies, the dying young widow whose rambunctious sons manage to unlock James Barrie's writer's block and open the door to Neverland, Peter Pan and Captain Hook, etc.

She said Sylvia doesn't really fly away into the night sky, then qualified that: "Maybe metaphorically." The actress has already put in plenty of air miles, originating Mary Poppins in London and playing it over here. She Broadway-bowed in the last Fiddler.

"I want to use life in my work," Kelly said. "That's why I do musical theatre. I want people to leave the theatre better than when they come in. That's what I think our show, Finding Neverland, does. I'm so proud to be a part of it. I'm very honored." The simultaneous arrivals of Morrison and Grammer produced what could only be called "Glee Cheers" from the modest masses behind the wrought iron barricades.

"It's been a long journey," Morrison conceded. "I did a workshop of it in March a year ago, and it was something I always hoped would come back around to me. The timing worked out perfectly. I'm so in love with this story. I love falling in love with the show every single night, and I'm so happy to bring this to audiences."

Grammer, who took his time obliging autograph-hounds, said he had researched the penny-pinching producer he was playing, "but that's not what drew me to it. It's a good part. You play it because of its own merits." Plus, he gets to do Hook ("a joy!").

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