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NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Finding Neverland," Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein's musical about the story behind the creation of "Peter Pan," debuted on Broadway but critics found the production "overstuffed" and said it failed to take flight.
The show, which opened on Wednesday night at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, follows the friendship of Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie and the British family that inspired his story about a boy who could fly and who never wants to grow up.
It is Weinstein's first turn as chief producer in musical theater. He reworked the 2012 version of the show that premiered in England and is based on the film of the same name starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.
"What is most striking is how a show about the power of whimsy and imagination is so lacking in both," said the New York Post newspaper.
"This 'Neverland' is most charming in subdued moments, when the emphasis is on human connection, and eventually, loss," said USA Today.
Directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus, the show features music and lyrics by Gary Barlow of British pop group Take That and Eliot Kennedy.
Matthew Morrison, of the hit TV series "Glee," plays Barrie with a convincing Scottish accent. The playwright is suffering from a career slump when he meets the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her young sons in a London park.
English actress Laura Michelle Kelly is the boys' mother, and "Frasier" actor Kelsey Grammer takes on the dual roles of Barrie's American theatrical producer, Charles Frohman, and Captain Hook.
The Daily News newspaper found Morrison "impressive in his easy-going star turn" as Barrie and described Kelly's performance as "sublime."
"At the core of the show are sensitive, naturalistic performances from Morrison and Kelly, two accomplished musical-theater actors," said the Hollywood Reporter, adding Grammer is amusing as the flamboyant Captain Hook.
The trade magazine Variety praised the show's technical marvels but said it remained "stubbornly earthbound."
"The lead in its feet has a lot to do with the ponderous lyrics, but at the heart of the matter, this material doesn't cry out to be a musical," it said.
With impressive advance ticket sales and enthusiastic audiences, the show might be critic-proof, said the Hollywood Reporter.
"And good luck to it, if only this family-friendly musical, a semi-fictionalized account of J.M. Barrie's creation of Peter Pan, didn't work so strenuously for its meager ounce or two of charm," it added.
Editing by Matthew Lewis