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Finding Neverland - OPENING NIGHT

When "Peter Pan" opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in London, in December of 1904, it had two performances daily—once in the afternoon and once in the evening. This image depicts an advertisement about the production. Historical image online via NBC.

 

When Frohman arrived in London, in late April, he liked everything about the play except its title which, he suggested, should be Peter Pan. There were issues, however.

How would a highly sophisticated, adult London audience react (on opening night) to a play where a dog draws a child's bath? And how, exactly, would children "fly" (this is the first poster) in the Duke of York's Theatre?

Frohman and Barrie wanted the play to be a complete surprise. Secrecy therefore surrounded rehearsals, but disaster paid a visit to the set on December 21, 1904 - the night before the play was scheduled to open. A mechanical lift collapsed, damaging half the scenery.

The first production of the still-popular Christmastime play had to be delayed by six days.

The curtain went up for the first time at 8:30 p.m., on December 27, 1904, with few children in the audience and Nina Boucicault in the title role. Wendy was played by Hilda Trevelyan. Other key cast members from the first production were:

A nervous Charles Frohman, who had spent a fortune on the production and was awaiting news of the performance amidst a New York City snowstorm, could not have been more pleased when the cablegram finally arrived:

PETER PAN ALL RIGHT. LOOKS LIKE A BIG SUCCESS.

That was an understatement.
 
When Nina asked the audience whether they believed in fairies, she was so stunned by their reaction she could not hold back her tears.
 
The Llewelyn Davies boys loved seeing their exploits on stage as well. Years later Audrey Lucas (the daughter of Barrie's friends E.V. and Elizabeth Lucas), who attended the play with the boys (and was six when it first opened), recalled their first impressions:
 

I went...to the first matinee...with George, Jack, Peter, and Michael Llewelyn Davies (Nicholas being too young)...we loved the play...Hook had become one of us, the Jolly Roger had cast its spell...On the way home George demonstrated his excited approval by pretending to fall out of the bus. (Quoted in JM Barrie and the Lost Boys, page 118.)

When Peter Pan finished its first London run, the public demanded more.

Charles Frohman announced it would reopen the following December, with advance bookings beginning in May, 1905. On November 6, 1905, Peter Pan opened in New York with Maude Adams in the role which Barrie had originally created for her.

Mark Twain was so entranced by it that he wrote to Maude Adams:

It is my belief that Peter Pan is a great and refining and uplifting benefaction to this sordid and money-mad age; and that the next best play is a long way behind it. (Quoted in JM Barrie and the Lost Boys, page 126.)

The American public agreed with Twain. Barrie was at the top of his game professionally.

But ... dual tragedies were about to strike the Llewelyn Davies family.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Aug 01, 2015


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"OPENING NIGHT" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2004. Oct 22, 2017.
       <https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/OPENING-NIGHT-Finding-Neverland/1>.
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