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  WINDY CITY TIMES

NUNN ON ONE: THEATER Tom Hewitt hooks into 'Finding Neverland'
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2016-11-30

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Inspired by the 2004 movie, Finding Neverland has now been made into a musical Broadway show. After closing this past August in New York, the production is now traveling and making its way to the Windy City.

The story centers around Scottish writer J.M. Barrie, his relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and her four sons. This serves as the inspiration behind the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Never Grew Up.

Tom Hewitt plays Charles Frohman/Captain Hook in Finding Neverland. This talented performer has been in many musicals, including The Lion King, Jesus Christ Superstar and Amazing Grace.

Windy City Times: It's The Tom and Jerry Show today!

Tom Hewitt: That's fantastic. I have a giant sledgehammer in my hand right now!

WCT: The cat was the mean one, so I will have to watch out for you. So you were originally from Montana?

TH: Western Montana—a little town called Victor that's just south of Missoula, near the Idaho border.

WCT: How was growing up there?

TH: Kind of miserable was my memory. Of course, as an adult, I just wanted to make two movies, buy a log home and move back there.

It was fantastic working there because I was big fish in a sparsely populated state! I got good experience when in high school. I worked with the Virginia City Players in Montana. We would do turn of the century theater followed by vivacious variety acts.

I also worked with Montana Shakespeare in the Park, which would travel around to small cities in Montana. That was freaking awesome. My parents were astonishingly supportive of me and my career.

WCT: You graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee?

TH: Yes. I was the first group in an actor training program with a classical emphasis. We got a lot of attention with a lot of guest directors. Regional theater was in demand and they performed one or two Shakespeare shows a year. They needed someone to do that so I got in at the end of that whole phenomenon.

WCT: Have you spent much time in Chicago?

TH: It was about two years ago that we opened the musical Amazing Grace there. I have also been through Chicago many times on tours.

WCT: I liked Amazing Grace.

TH: There was a lot of great things in it. Chicago audiences really liked it, too.

WCT: How flamboyant do you go with the character of Hook in Finding Neverland?

TH: I played Captain Hook with Cathy Rigby, but this Hook is a little different. This one has a facet of J.M. Barrie's personality that manifests itself to encourage Barrie to explore his darker side. He has to pirate up and have the courage of his own convictions to write his own story.

This Captain Hook is probably more Keith Richards and the other one was more Jo Anne Worley!

WCT: So any LGBT content in the show?

TH: There is a joke about fairies in the theater. It's a show stopper. It is a show about a show so there are lots of theatrical types in the show. It is about an acting company so you can imagine.

WCT: Who is Charles Frohman?

TH: He is a very interesting character. It is all sort of fact-based. Charles Frohman was a producer and historically a very big deal. He had a monopoly on venues and contracts all across America and Europe. At the time he was leasing the Prince of Wales Theatre in England. He produced Finding Neverland and several of J.M. Barrie's plays. He brought Peter Pan and Oscar Wilde over to the United States.

Interestingly enough, he died on the Lusitania while traveling back to help Barrie produce a show.

WCT: The songs in Finding Neverland are really good. They made a soundtrack with big-name artists like Ellie Goulding singing on it.

TH: Yeah, and it is unapologetic British pop. It is amazing how well it serves the feeling and the context of the piece. It is infectious. I play it around the house.

WCT: Did you see the Broadway version of Finding Neverland?

TH: I did. I didn't see Kelsey Grammer play my part. I am glad though because he is such a distinct personality. When listening to the soundtrack you really associate him with that role. It was nice to see another actor in the role and realize it is not Kelsey dependent!

WCT: Did you see the new version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

TH: I was on the road and was not able to watch it. I was bummed out about it.

WCT: The YouTube video of your Tony nominated role of Frank-N-Furter is still out there.

TH: I watched it not long ago. It has been 16 years now. It has been long enough that I can divorce myself of any judgment. I look at it and go, "The audacity of me!" That was such a crazy and fun time!

WCT: Talk about when you were on All My Children.

TH: Well, I was a district attorney—and there are many in that world. I was one for about two years off and on. That meant I would have to show up every two months and do a really stressful courtroom scene. It was a courtroom filled with extras and Susan Lucci. I would have to spout legal jargon. I had to refer to names and events where I had no idea what I was talking about. I had only one take to get it right.

WCT: Sounds like a nightmare.

TH: It was.

WCT: Well, at least you got to be with Susan Lucci.

TH: Yes, and Tonya Pinkins was on the show also at the same time. There was a hint that we might have a romance but that never came to fruition.

WCT: Any plans after the tour?

TH: Home accordion repair maybe? [Laughs] My partner and I just renovated our house in Putnam Lake, New York, about 60 miles north of Manhattan. I look forward to hanging out with him in our beautiful little house that this tour is now paying for!

Finding Neverland flies high in Chicago now through Dec. 4 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St. For ticket information, visit BroadwayInChicago.com .


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