FINDING NEVERLAND with Lael Van Keuren: Interview with star of the touring musical

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Lael Van Keuren.

Lael Van Keuren and the cast of Finding Neverland fly into Philadelphia over the Thanksgiving holiday. Van Keuren stars as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the current national tour. Based on the Academy Award®winning film of the same name, Finding Neverland is the magical show that tells the story of playwright J.M. Barrie as he finds the courage to become the writer, and man, he yearns to be. Barrie finds his inspiration when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her young sons.

[Academy of Music] November 21-26, 2016; kimmelcenter.org

The-Cast-of-The-National-Tour-of-Finding-Neverland-Credit-Carol-Rosegg-1037rDebra Danese: Sylvia is a widow and mother of five boys. What appealed to you about playing this character?

Lael Van Keuren: What I love most about Sylvia is how different she is from the women of her time. We’re in London, in 1903, and yet she doesn’t care what people think about her. She is playful and open and she leads with her heart. She has this incredible courage and resilience, and her sole mission in life is to provide her children with every source of happiness available to her. I think every mother can relate to that.

DD: Audiences continue to be captivated by the story of Peter Pan. Why do you think it holds such fascination?

LVK: I think there was a time for each of us when we viewed the world with childlike wonder and hope, and leapt heart first into each new day! Peter Pan very much represents that time “where boys could fly, and children fought with pirates,” as J.M. Barrie says in the show. Finding Neverland is so unique because it tackles both unspeakable sadness and unbridled joy, moments where there are simply no words, and moments where the entire company is singing, “Believe and you will FLY!” 

DD: What is your favorite moment in the show?

LVK: I have so many favorite moments! Every night is different, and this entire cast is so exceptional. They make every moment special. I love tucking the boys into bed and singing Sylvia’s Lullaby to them every night. I love listening to Billy (our J.M. Barrie) sing “Neverland.” I love watching Peter and Wendy soar across the stage. I could go on and on.

DD: You have appeared in numerous musicals on and off Broadway. What have been some of your favorite roles?

LVK: Aside from playing Sylvia, my favorite role would have to be Sister Mary Robert in Sister Act. I understudied the role on Broadway and played her on the 1st National Tour. That character was a total gift to play! 

DD: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

LVK: Before every show, I like to do a total body warm up – stretching, planking, some form of cardio to get my blood pumping, a good vocal warm up. I drink lots of water and tea. I also like to say a prayer for my cast, crew, orchestra, and for the audience that’s about to see our show for the first time. One of my favorite things about live theatre is that it is a shared experience, and each show is different because each audience is different. It’s an absolute dream to be sharing this story all across the country, and I can’t wait to be back in Philadelphia! 

 

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About the author

Debra Danese

Debra graduated with a degree in dance from the University of the Arts and also holds a B.A. in Arts Administration. She is accredited at the Master Level with the National Registry of Dance Educators. Debra has performed in Europe, Tokyo, Canada, and the Caribbean. She teaches and choreographs world-wide and has been an international guest artist in Switzerland, England, and Slovakia. Debra has been an Artist in Residence on five occasions in Norway where she showcased full length dance productions at the acclaimed Nordland Theatre. She has also presented an original dance production at the Elspe Festival in Germany. Debra has been featured in Dance, Dancer and Dance Teacher Magazines for her work in dance education. Additionally, she has been a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life Magazine since 2010.