From Lost Boy to Captain Hook, Kirk Lawrence found his Neverland and he’s thrilled to be bringing it to others.
He plays the dual role of Charles Frohman and Captain Hook when “Finding Neverland” comes to The Orpheum Theatre via The American Theatre Guild Jan. 10-12.
While he’s played many complex roles he’s loved throughout the years, he said this one is a dream come true.
Lawrence is no stranger to “Neverland” or classic lands of magic and wonder, having just finished a tour of “Wizard of Oz” last year. His first theatrical experience came when he was 11.
His mother took him to the Genesius Theater in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he was cast as a Lost Boy in their production of “Peter Pan.”
“I lived there for the rest of my youth, thank goodness,” said Lawrence. “Genesius Theatre pretty much saved my life. Now to come full circle to Captain Hook is kind of delicious. It’s far more than that little kid could have ever dreamed about. I’m blessed at what I do.”
“Finding Neverland” tells the story of J.M. Barrie, the creator of “Peter Pan,” and how he became inspired to create the now-famous tale.
It is a musical that lives at the midpoint between fantasy and biography. It is a story of creation, of inspiration and of finding oneself in a place of wonder and imagination. Everywhere Barrie goes he sees things that become a part of his eventual masterpiece.
“Toward the end of the show, there is a pseudo-production of ‘Peter Pan,’” said Lawrence. “So, you get to see all these little pieces he’s pulled from everywhere and coalesced into this magical experience. I think if you love Peter Pan, you have to love this show. You watch it come to life and be created in front of you.”
He warned while people of all ages enjoy this show, it isn’t a children’s show. There are some adult themes in it.
The 2015 musical is based on the 2004 film of the same name featuring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet with Dustin Hoffman playing the role Lawrence now inhabits.
Lawrence has researched the life of Frohman, who is based on an American producer and theatre manager whose most famous accomplishments were discovering great talents, including Ethel Barrymore, and producing Barrie’s “Peter Pan.”
Lawrence said the Frohman he plays in “Finding Neverland” is different from the actual man as the character is shown through the filter of Barrie and the musical’s need for an antagonist.
“Charles Frohman, Barrie’s partner, producer, cheerleader, is, especially in the first act, antithetical to what all the research into Charles Frohman tells me is,” said Lawrence. “He was an incredibly plucky guy, very much the optimist. In ‘Finding Neverland’ he has to be filtered through Barrie’s eyes, so Frohman becomes this driving, sort of very forceful, demanding creature the actual Frohman would have never been.”
He said by the second act, Frohman gets to live a little more in his happy self. Lawrence points out Frohman was the really the first theatrical magnet king of the early 20th century and late 19th century. He controlled the theatrical empire.
“He was just a very driven, but always positive guy,” said Lawrence. “He was very good at finding talent and helping talent blossom. In a lot of ways, it’s what he does with Barrie in this show, as far as getting him to make Peter Pan something truly wonderful.”
It is Frohman in the musical who tells Barrie his play needs an antagonist, giving birth to Captain Hook.
Before joining the “Neverland” tour mid-way through 2019, Lawrence had been traveling for a year and a half with the same producing company doing “Wizard of Oz.”
However, the need for a hip replacement made it necessary to leave the tour after 296 performances of never missing a show. Toward the end of his tenure in Oz, he decided to look up “Finding Neverland.”
“I quietly found a bootleg and watched it and was just blown away,” said Lawrence. “I immediately fell in love with it and then found out our company Apex was taking over the tour. Oz was not left because of Neverland, but I’m glad I left it so I could find Neverland.”
He said the dual part of Frohman/Captain Hook is quickly becoming his favorite.
“Getting to do it every night, I’m still finding nuances, that’s what keeps it fun,” said Lawrence.
“The music is incredibly memorable, compelling and fun,” said Lawrence. “The two gentlemen who wrote it were very big Beatles fans, so there are some Easter Eggs there. You can feel that influence. It’s fun to sing.”
The show travels with about 30 people on a bus and Lawrence said they are together 24/7, whether on the bus, in the hotel or in the dressing room.
He loves the people he performs with and it is a treat to spend time with them.
“Whenever I get cranky about the schedule, I remind myself I get to do this magical thing,” said Lawrence. “I get to ride around the country with lovely people doing this amazing show, doing what I love to do and someone pays me to do it. What could be better than that? It’s lovely to be doing something your heart is just totally enmeshed in.”