FRESNO — Valley ‘Peter Pan’ fans no longer have to follow the second star to the right nor travel straight on till morning to find Neverland.

“Finding Neverland” kicks off its national tour with two shows at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I know I’m supposed to say it, but I really do love this musical,” actor Kirk Lawrence told the Sentinel.

The musical, inspired by the Academy Award-winning 2004 film of the same name, tells the story of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Wendy and the Lost Boys from a unique angle – its real-life creation.

Depicting the events that led Scottish novelist and playwright, J.M. Barrie, to create Peter Pan, the musicalal blends biography, fantasy, dreams, reality, comedy and drama into one fantastic adventure.

Lawrence plays the dual role of the iconic and fantastic metallic-handed, alligator-fearing high seas scourge Captain Hook and real-life director and friend of Barrie, Charles Frohman.  

“In this presentation, the version of Captain Hook I play is a portion of J.M. Barrie, the part he tamps down to fit into society; his dark side,” Lawrence said. “It’s fun to add that layer to Captain Hook of ‘I’m all the things you want to do but can’t.’”

While Lawrence delights in Hook’s over-the-top id-based villainy, one gets the sense that Frohman is the actor’s preferred side of the coin.

“The more research I do on him, the more amazing this man becomes,” he said. “He was the first theatrical impresario in the world.”

Lawrence said that the Frohman in the musical is seen through the prism of Barrie at the time of the creation of Peter Pan, which probably lends to the writer’s collaborator being seen in a more antagonistic light. It’s exactly that perceived antagonism that’s fun to watch on stage, though, he said.

“Mark Bacon, who plays J.M. Barrie is absolutely amazing. He’s such a joy to work with,” he said. “He and I have such a table tennis match going on between us, it’s brilliant. I love working with him.”

In addition Lawrence and Bacon, the cast is rounded out by Josephine Florence Cooper plays Barrie’s love interest, Sylvia, and Desirée Dillon who plays Mrs. du Mauier. The cast also features the Lost Boys,  played by a rotation of Brycton Archer, Ashton Heathcoat, Dylan Jacob Loraw, Jack Packer and Nicholas Reed.

“They say never to work with dogs or children and we have both,” Lawrence joked. “It’s great to see them work, they’re amazing little stars. They have a show-stopping number in the second act that gets more applause than anything the adults do. And then there’s the dog who also gets more applause than the adults do. It’s a big lovable fluffy golden doodle.”

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