Actress’ mother inspires ‘Neverland’ role
Ruby Gibbs, who plays Sylvia in the national touring production of “Finding Neverland,” says she found her mother as inspiration for the role.
“Finding Neverland” follows the relationship between playwright J.M. Barrie and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, whose sons inspired his classic tale, “Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn’ Grow Up.” The musical is based on the movie by David Magee, and the play, “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” by Allan Knee.
“Finding Neverland” is presented at 7 p.m. March 20 and 21, State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton.
Gibbs prepared for the role of Sylvia by drawing on her own mother for inspiration:
“My mother is the absolute best mom in the world. I am surprised and excited to see so much of my mom in the portrayal of Sylvia. That was really special when I realized that so much of my mom was in my character.
“As soon as I read about the character of Sylvia [a widow and mother of four young boys in ‘Finding Neverland’] and read her story, I was immediately drawn to how strong and powerful she is while being so gentle and nurturing and loving towards these boys,” Gibbs says in a phone interview.
Gibbs, 23, a native of Raleigh, N.C., is a 2017 graduate of Elon University. “I always knew I was going to go into musical theater. Yet I went through [career] phases. This was my ultimate dream. I had to jump into it, dive in head-first and have total faith in myself.”
This is Gibbs’ first year in “Finding Neverland,” now in its second national tour.
Gibbs says the stage musical is not as dark in subject matter as the 2004 film starring Johnny Depp (who plays Barrie) and Kate Winslet (as Sylvia). The film received seven Oscar nominations.
According to Gibbs, the musical, a heightened version of the story, focuses on the love that blossoms between Barrie and Davies.
“This show is so touching,” says Gibbs. “It’s a reminder that there’s always beauty even in the darkest situations.
“The story behind the real people can be quite tragic,” admits Gibbs. “This version of the story focuses on the beauty of the situation. [The musical] has been romanticized a little bit and there have been some fictional touches.”
“Finding Neverland” is said to be appropriate for all ages. There are six children in the cast. “It’s a family-friendly musical,” Gibbs says. “The show is very funny. You‘ll see most of the comedy in the acting troupe, the ensemble. One of my favorite parts is the actor who plays Captain Hook.”
Conor McGiffin plays dual roles, Charles Frohman and Captain Hook, in the musical. Frohman was J.M. Barrie’s producer who inspired Barrie to create the character of Captain Hook.
The production features elaborate scenic design. “The visual aspect of the show is stunning,” says Gibbs. “We have a beautiful garden scene. It’s very vibrant and bright.
“Every single night there’s a pirate ship that gets built onstage. You see it happen before your eyes.”
Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132