Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Inside look at the making of Peter Pan

Musical comes both to Van Wert and Wabash


Mackenzie Joefreda

Whatzup Features Writer

Published March 5, 2020

Based on the 2004 Academy Award-winning film starring Johnny Depp, Finding Never­land gives audiences a look inside the magical world of Peter Pan.

The musical flies to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center stage on March 14 and the Honeywell Center stage the following day, March 15.

Feel like a kid again

“It’s a show about awakening your imagination and letting yourself feel like a kid again, viewing the world through a child’s eyes because that’s when the most joy in life can be found,” Connor Simpson, who plays Mr. Cromer in Finding Neverland, said in a phone interview with Whatzup.

One of Simpson’s first theatrical experiences was working with Missoula Children’s Theatre as a 5 year old. His first show he participated in was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as one of the evil queen’s henchmen.

“The bug bit me early,” Simpson said. “I did theater all through my childhood and high school, and it was in high school when I thought I’m going to make a go of this, I want to do this as a career.”

He went on to receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater from Kent State University.

In this production, Simpson’s character is a member of the acting troupe that is putting on Peter Pan for the first time. This character is fussy and a bit of a priss.

“He lives life with his emotions dialed up to 100,” Simpson said. “If he’s happy, he’s very happy, and if he’s unhappy, he’s very unhappy, and he will let you know it.”

Though Simpson considers himself to be fairly laid back, he’s enjoyed tapping into that mindset where anything could set him off.

The Touring Life

Auditions for this production began back in early April 2019. They held weeklong auditions in New York.

At the time, Simpson was in another show, and couldn’t attend the full week. But accommodations were made, and Simpson attended the first full day of auditions.

“They had me read and sing for just about every male character in the show,” Simpson said. “It was a marathon audition process. I was in the room for about an hour.”

The cast knew by mid-June that they had booked the parts. With the exception of a holiday break, they’ve been performing since August. That being said, their touring schedule can be a bit grueling.

“It’s a lot of one night in one city one show, which means you get on a bus in the morning, drive to that place, do a show, they drive you to a hotel, you spend the night, you get up, you get on a bus, lather rinse repeat,” Simpson said.

Simpson is used to the lifestyle.

“I was on the national tour of Annie for about two years,” Simpson said. “I personally enjoy the touring life, but it isn’t for everyone for sure.”

Because of touring, Simpson has been able to see places he wouldn’t have otherwise visited. So far, he’s been to 48 states.

“I just need Nevada and Utah,” Simpson said. “I figure I can take a trip to Vegas, rent a car, drive to Utah and knock those out real quick.”

This show requires a substantial energy investment from the cast members.

“It really feels like you’re running a sprint from the time the show starts until it finishes,” Simpson said. “You never really stop moving.”

SOmething for everyone

According to Simpson, within the first 20 minutes of the show, each character completes four 30-second-or-less quick changes.

“It is rather insane,” Simpson said. “It’s just a matter of you needing to know where your energy level is that day, and how you can bring it up to the level you need to get through the show in one piece.”

Finding Neverland has something for everyone to enjoy. It’s a great show for families and especially children. Simpson mentioned it has a real emotional heart to it that feels incredibly genuine.

“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, sometimes within the same scene,” Simpson said. “It is a very well-crafted show, and I think people leave feeling emotionally lifted with that sense of imagination, play, and joy awakened in their hearts again.”

In Finding Neverland, the musical number “Play” involves the character Charles Frohman, the producer for the theatrical troupe, trying to convince the actors after a terrible rehearsal day that they need to let go of their preconceptions of acting, and just play.

“It’s a super fun number, and the choreo­graphy is amazing,” Simpson said. “It’s like a well-oiled machine.”

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