As Finding Neverland flies through the Hobby Center this week, young and young-at-heart audiences will be mesmerized by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy's 2012 musical adaptation, in which widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four young boys inspire J.M. Barrie to write the age-defying story featuring pirates, pixie dust and Peter Pan.
We spoke with Broadway star Christine Dwyer who plays Sylvia on the national tour. Dwyer, who first entered the spotlight as Elphaba in the second national tour of Wicked in 2012, shares her first big break, getting into character as a Victorian-era mother and planning her own fairytale from the road.
Flying onto Broadway
Playing Elphaba completely changed the way I was viewed in the professional world. I became a member of the Actors' Equity Association with Wicked, so that changed the rooms I could get into for auditions. I became someone who people could trust to lead a show. It also changed the way I viewed myself. Before taking on that role, I never would have imagined I could do it successfully for 8 shows a week. I am a more confident performer because I played Elphaba.
Playing Sylvia Llewelyn Davies
Sylvia is such a departure from the dark and edgy characters I usually play, so I had to prepare differently. My posture has improved since playing this character, as my shoulders are usually slumped over and the songs I sing require me to plant my feet on the ground and grip-it-and-rip-it, so to speak. Sylvia is a soprano, which it is so unlike anything I've done before.
Getting Into Character
Our show is interesting because everyone wears Victorian costumes, but we try to modernize the way we sing and act to make it more accessible to audiences today. Plus, Sylvia was ahead of her time. She did things her way. The boys playing my sons make it easy to get into character as a mom. I have a unique relationship with each one of them, so no matter who is on stage, I'll change a little based on my relationships with them individually, which is so great.
Fan of the Pan
I love the movie Hook—it's my favorite version of the Peter Pan story. I've also always loved the Disney animated movie and the different retellings of the story that have come out. It's such a special idea of finding your inner child and still continuing to explore. I think we all could use a little of that imagination in our lives as we grow older.
Relating to Sylvia
She turns tragedy into joy and always focuses on the positive, which I really admire and respect. I try to do that in my own life, but don't always succeed. Everyone has gone through some sort of loss in their life and they have a decision to make: let it defeat you, or rise up and move forward. She survives and moves forward. I think people really relate to her in that way.
An Age-Defying Story
Finding Neverland director Diane Paulus gave J.M. Barrie's book to us as an opening night gift and I still travel with it now. I think the idea of staying young forever and still being adventurous outside of what your normal life is will always resonate with audiences. We tend to get into comfortable routines with our jobs, families and friends. Peter Pan resonates because we all have that inner child inside of us that still wants to ask questions and experience new things. It's important to pay attention to that part of ourselves no matter what. I hope Houston audiences go home to their loved ones and hug them a little tighter. When I saw it on Broadway, it made me want to call my parents and tell them how much I appreciated them. It's a show that brings people together and makes people reach out to those they care about and say 'I love you.'
Her Own Fairytale
Planning a wedding from the road is stressful—haha—but also fun. [Myself and fiancé Matt DeAngelis] send each other ideas, and other than not being together, we couldn't be in a better situation. I'm on tour and he's on Broadway in Waitress, so planning a wedding without jobs would be way more stressful. We're grateful to be where we are and doing what we love. Some day, I just hope we are in the same city doing it!
April 25–30. $30–125. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2525. thehobbycenter.org
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.