Billy Tighe as J.M. Barrie in ‘Finding Neverland.’ Photo by Jeremy Daniel
SCHENECTADY — Proctors’ latest production, featuring the work of author James Graham, pulls back the curtain to reveal the magic behind the timeless tale of Peter Pan.
Based on the Academy Award-winning Miramax motion picture and the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” “Finding Neverland” follows the relationship between playwright J.M. Barrie and the family who inspired the story about a boy who wouldn’t grow up.
“I think there’s something interesting about an artist who has found himself successful in what he’s aspired to do,” said Billy Harrigan Tighe, the Broadway actor who portrays the playwright who pens Peter Pan. “He’s already written many plays, he’s become successful, he’s in the London social scene and, yet, he’s still not happy.”
The plot line begins as Barrie struggles through a dry spell of lackluster plays. With his professional career in question and his personal life marred by a loveless marriage, he begins to question his life’s purpose. When he meets the widowed Sylvia and her four young sons in Kensington Gardens, friendships are forged and characters develop. “What’s so wonderful about this play… he discovers why he got into this business, this passion, in the first place.”
Since “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up,” first ran at Duke of York’s Theatre in London in 1904, the story of swashbuckling pirates and flying children has captured the hearts of generations. The play has since inspired movies, cartoon and toys galore.
“Each generation since the original incarnation has one that they can call their own,” said Tighe. “Reapproaching this material, and being a part of this play, I was reintroduced back into the Peter Pan cannon and started to reevaluate what it meant to me…. If you’re 8-years-old and you’re approaching it, it’s all about flying and creativity and imagination and swords and pirates. But, for the adult that’s watching the show, it comes to understanding what’s going on behind Peter Pan. It’s a metaphor about life and relationships, and rediscovering other things from your youth. These broad, universal truths that everybody gets through, whether you’re 8 or 80. … For me, I’ve learned more about the importance of this show now in my life than I ever realized it could have been when I was a child.”
Directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus, “Finding Neverland” serves as a more adult prequel of sorts to the beloved story we’ve all grown up with. Nonetheless, Tighe said there is still plenty of magic to be enjoyed by all.
“It’s magical to know that the character in a play is based on a person, and the elements of that person are so beautiful and so strong, they are able to inspire an entire character in this play,” said Tighe. “But, also in terms of the actual practical magic, we do a lot of things in the show that people will recognize from Peter Pan, and some things they haven’t seen before.”
“Finding Neverland” is at Proctors from Sunday Dec. 5 to Friday, Dec. 10. For tickets and information, visit
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.