The second star to the right brought Finding Neverland to the National Theatre stage last Tuesday. The production of the 2015 Broadway show debuted in D.C. on the first stop of its 2019 tour.

Based on the curiosity behind how great art is created, Finding Neverland shows how playwright J.M. Barrie wrote the childhood classic Peter Pan. It follows his adventures alongside a widow and her four imaginative boys, who served as the inspiration for the children’s story.

Obviously, the team behind Finding Neverland expected to have children in attendance. But this is Barrie’s story, not Peter Pan’s — those hoping for the magic of the boy that would never grow up, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook off in Neverland should probably look elsewhere. While most of the iconic characters are in the musical, their appearances are brief. Finding Neverland is more of an exploration into the life and inner workings of Barrie’s mind.

The musical opens with Barrie addressing the audience just before a contagiously energetic beginning number, “Welcome to London.” It’s a lively beginning, thanks to the cast’s and ensemble’s cheeriness. The audience is then transported back more 100 years to Kensington Gardens, the park where Barrie (Jeff Sullivan) meets the widow Sylvia Davies (Ruby Gibbs).

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It’s clear that Finding Neverland’s strongest moments are when everyone is performing together. One of the production’s standout moments is “Play,” another energetic number where the adults realize the importance of fun and imagination. They jump and careen off pub tables, teetering and tottering into each other. They reminisce on childhoods spent wanting to be cowboys or princesses.

Seeing the entire cast and ensemble onstage together, along with the expert choreography and incredible costume design, creates a magical visual.

Set design also elevate the production. The stage is transformed into Captain Hook’s pirate ship at the end of Act I; his crew even climbs ropes that hang from the ceiling. The setting in these final moments shows both the vividness of Barrie’s imagination and the strength of the production.

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As in any musical, the vocals are the most important, and Finding Neverland does not disappoint. Gibbs stands out for her angelic voice. Her talent shines in her Act I solo “All That Matters.” In a stunning duet with Barrie earlier in the show, their voices blend together in a beautiful harmony.

Unlike the 2004 Finding Neverland movie, the National Theatre’s production was unable to avoid the many cliches that plague “forbidden” love and Disney movies. The cast’s apparent cheeriness was so forced and over-the-top that it bordered cringey at times. Cheesy jokes sometimes detracted from the serious talent of the performers.

But it’s important to remember the show is rooted in children’s entertainment. One or two campy moments certainly are not damning, and the magic of creating Neverland seems to make up for it.