"I want to always do shows like this," Laura Michelle Kelly says of Finding Neverland, which wraps up its year-and-a-half Broadway run on August 21. "The artistry that [director] Diane [Paulus] and the team had to create it, and the vision they had…I'm so sad that we don't get to do it in New York anymore."
The British-born Kelly takes on the role of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, a widow whose young sons befriend the writer J.M. Barrie and serve as the inspiration for his play Peter Pan. It's a role she's played for some time, dating back to the show's 2014 tryout at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "All good things do come to an end," Kelly says, even though she's not ready to say goodbye.
1. What is your favorite line that you get to say or sing?
"Don't lose faith. You'll get there. I always tell my boys the reason birds can fly, and we can't, is simply because they have perfect faith. That's the one that epitomizes the whole show, I think." Have faith and you'll fly.
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?
Sometimes I ask the kids what scenes are about, and they put some crazy spin on "Believe." We imagine what's happening in the scene, other than what we're singing. These kids come up with the wackiest ideas when we're singing "Believe." Like birds pooping rainbow cake. They have a different one each night.
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show and how was it handled?
We never had any with our show. I think we only ever stopped once, and it was because one scrim didn't come in.
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
People make me quote journals. I guess because Sylvia is filled with one-liners about how life could be better. All the fans seem to put books together with all these amazing quotes. I haven't even managed to get to the bottom of my fan mail list, and they've all got presents like that. I'm going to be surrounded by a waterfall of quote books.
5. Who is the coolest person who came to see your show? (You can't say family!)
Julie Andrews. She's actually the coolest person who came. She saw me do Mary Poppins and I was beyond happy that she came to see us.
6. Describe your J.M. Barries in a few words:
Jeremy Jordan – kind-spirited
Matthew Morrison – mischievous
Kevin Kern - playful
Tony Yazbek - consistent
Alfie Boe – operatic hero
7. This show is about rediscovering your inner child. How do you express yours?
By being open to the possibility of the now. I need to be open to the electricity of now. Anything could happen. That also allows you to be influenced by different people onstage with you every day. I've noticed the kids, how they all behave and the games they play. They come up with new games before each show. They keep things new. By learning from them, I've been able to bring that to the table every night.
8. What do you have to do to keep the role fresh for you each night after two years?
It's like falling in love with a different person in each show. These men, they've all had such different qualities. I've found new things in my Sylvia reflected in their eyes. They would see me in a certain way, or behave a different way, and I could see a different side to my character. They create that part of you, and you have to allow yourself to be fluid based on the other character's interaction with you. You can't feel stubborn, that you're going to be "No, this is the way that I am."
9. They say never work with children or animals. How do you feel about working with both kids and dogs?
It's so easy. That's a testament to the casting process. The dogs and the children create an environment for our show every night. We don't really talk about the art of putting the group together in a show. I'm pretty sure they consider not just the talent of who's involved, they look at personalities and the chemistry they might have together. Our casting people did an amazing job in finding the dogs and the children to create an environment that's as fun as we have. The dogs are so easy to work with. Their training is so incredible.
10. You make your final exit through a tornado of glitter every night. What is it like to walk through?
I feel like it reconnects me to my mortality every single night. Not just my mortality, my eternity. Imagining where you go every night after you die has set me free in a lot of ways.
I was there when my mum passed away. I don't know what it's like on the other side, but I hope that the reality in her mind was what I experience in that glitter tornado. People say to me, "That's what I want it to be like." What I value is that there are people in the audience who might not have sent their loved one off the way that they wished. So for them to have a picture of what that might be like…I have a feeling that that is one of the most powerful moments you can get onstage. I'm sad that it can't continue for people to keep experiencing those moments.
- Jeremy Jordan
- Peter Pan
- American Repertory Theater
- Mary Poppins
- Laura Michelle Kelly
- Matthew Morrison
- Finding Neverland
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