Best Bets: Dover’s McGiffin finds ‘Neverland’ in Wilmington

Dover’s Conor McGiffin, right, plays Captain Hook while Jeff Sullivan plays author J.M. Barrie in the touring production of “Finding Neverland.” The show comes to The Playhouse on Rodney Square in Wilmington next month. (Submitted photo/Jeremy Daniel)

A veteran of five national touring productions, actor and Dover native Conor McGiffin has never had any of his shows stop in Delaware — until now.

“Finding Neverland,” the Broadway musical that follows the relationship between playwright J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired his work “Peter Pan,” will take the stage of The Playhouse on Rodney Square in Wilmington Feb. 7-10.

Mr. McGiffin plays Captain Hook and the man who inspired the character, Charles Frohman.

“I’m so excited that I’m actually able to do a show there” said Mr. McGiffin by phone during a recent tour stop in Athens, Ohio.

“I’ve never been part of a tour that has come through Delaware. I’ll be able to see people I haven’t seen since I graduated high school. It’s actually making me really nervous as well.”

After he was offered the role, he got a preliminary schedule of the tour stops and saw that Wilmington was one of the confirmed cities.

“After I saw that, I was so blinded with excitement, I took the job,” he said.

Mr. McGiffin, who has wanted to be a professional actor since he was 9 years old, spent his early days being a part of The Children’s Theatre and The Dance Conservatory, both in Dover, as well as Dover High School choir, band and stage productions and later Clear Space Theatre in Rehoboth Beach.

He was one of 21 students out of 600 accepted into the University of Michigan’s rigorous musical theater program. Following graduation in 2014, he and other class members were off to New York City, where he auditioned for managers, producers, agents and casting directors.

Soon after landing in New York, he scored a part in a touring production of the musical “Jekyll & Hyde.” Roles followed one after the other in musicals “Bullets over Broadway,” “Annie,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and now “Finding Neverland,” which debuted in October and will keep Mr. McGiffin on stages around the country until June.

Conor McGiffin

Since this isn’t the first tour of “Finding Neverland,” based on the Oscar-winning movie of the same name and the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” only has brief stops of perhaps one or maybe a few days in each city.

Although the short stays aren’t ideal for Mr. McGiffin, he loves the travel overall.

“Last year, during ‘A Gentleman’s Guide,’ we went to Northern California where I got to see Yosemite National Park, which was unbelievable and then Lake Tahoe, when we got to Reno, which was gorgeous.

“This year we’ve seen much of it through our bus window. We don’t get a lot of chances to explore outside of the show. But we were just in Dayton for a week and got a chance to walk around in the Oregon District, which is a great part of town,” he said.

“I would never have seen all of these landmarks and mountains and things had I not been on these tours, so I love it.”

All of the travel does help in the sleep department, Mr. McGiffin said.

“I definitely sleep a lot deeper. Plus, we work ourselves very hard so it’s not hard to fall asleep most nights,” he said.

His dual role in “Finding Neverland” is the largest part he’s had on a tour. He said he hasn’t had a lead role since college.

“I’ve wanted to play Captain Hook for as long as I can remember,” Mr. McGiffin said.

“There’s something about playing a bad guy who loves how bad he is and doesn’t care about the consequences. He’s there to use them, eat them and to dispose of them. It’s thrilling to throw caution to the wind and have that sense of power.”

He’s having a ball with the show.

“We feel like rock stars with the audience screaming at the end of the show. It’s an amazing feeling. I had the same feeling with ‘Annie.’ Parents bring their kids to the show and it captures the imagination of everyone that’s sitting there. They are all smiling and on their feet. It’s an incredible rush,” he said.

“Finding Neverland” started in October and will run until June across the country. (Submitted photo/Jeremy Daniel)

The original Broadway production, which included Kelsey Grammer in the role that Mr. McGiffin plays, closed in 2016 so he never got to see it staged on Broadway. But that’s OK since he avoided much of it anyway.

“I don’t want to be doing anyone else’s choice that doesn’t come from me and wouldn’t be my version It would be a version that would feel alien and fake. Audiences can tell if you’re being fake or untruthful. I want it to be my interpretation of the character,” he said.

Mr. McGiffin’s professional goals include being cast in a show on Broadway or in a TV program or film. He has an agent for the first time, who helps him get auditions for his next project.

“I send him breakdowns for shows that are starting in July or August and just tell him that I’m interested in auditioning for this, along with sending in my own video submissions for things,” he said.

Mr. McGiffin, the son of Jim McGiffin and Kathy Doyle, both members of the local band Celtic Harvest, says he’s heard from many family members and friends who will be making the trip up to Wilmington to see him perform.

But two local men who have died in the past couple of years will be especially missed by him – former Dover High band director Lenny Knight and Eddie Cohee, the musical director of the Dance Conservatory.

“I really wish they could be there. But since they can’t, I’ll be dedicating the performances to them,” he said.

Tickets for “Finding Neverland” can be obtained at BroadwayInWilmington.org, by calling 302-888-0200 or visiting the box office at 1007 N. Market St. in Wilmington. Discounts are available to seniors and groups of 10 people or more by calling the box office.

On the lookout

The Biggs Museum of American Art is hosting an exhibition on the effects of African tourism on the arts made in Kent County. This exhibition is one portion of Dover’s annual Citywide Black History Celebration in February. For this exhibition, entitled “Traveling Africa: Citywide Black History Celebration,” the museum’s staff hopes to highlight art objects that were made in Africa as well as artwork by Kent County artists that interpret the idea of traveling across Africa (even if they haven’t gone yet).

The staff is looking to borrow for the duration of the exhibition the following types of materials:

Art objects made in Africa, such as:

• Sculptures and masks, jewelry and beaded decorative objects, furniture, framed artworks, clothing and cloth and weapons, etc.

Artworks by Kent County artists that are influenced by the idea of traveling across Africa:

Paintings, prints, travel photographs, sculptures, video and installations.

The museum’s staff will give preference within the exhibition to African objects which their origin can be identified (relating to specific countries, tribes, language groups, etc.) and American artworks that show a strong connection to the African continent. If selected for the exhibition, these works will be secured during the exhibition and insured against loss.

Contact Biggs Museum curator Ryan Grover at 302-674-2111 Ext. 108 and rgrover@biggsmuseum.org. Be prepared to email simple photos of your contributions to this show or to be able to describe them to the curator. If requested, he will mail/email a loan form to return with the works.

The last day to contact Mr. Grover about possible additions to the exhibition is today. Sunday is the last day to drop off works for the show. The exhibition opens Feb. 1.

‘Together Through the Pain’

Produced by Frontline Ministries, “Together Through the Pain” is an original stage play written and directed by award-winning director, the Rev. Dr. Warren A. Rhodes.

“Together Through the Pain” will premiere on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center, 39 S. West St., Dover.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children age 13 and under. For more information and tickets, call (302) 730-9200 or (302) 736-1671.

In the play, three mothers take the responsibility of organizing a group of women who have experienced the death of a child due to gun violence.

Ripped from the headlines and based primarily on actual events, this drama explores the pain, fears and commonality of women in the aftermath of such a life-changing experience.

Possums produce ‘Sleuth’

Possum Hall in Georgetown will showcase the Tony Award-winning mystery, “Sleuth,” as the main production kickoff to the Possum Point Players’ 2019 season.

A classic tale of suspense, “Sleuth” will take the stage today through Sunday and Feb. 1, 2 and 3.

Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $19 for students and seniors and may be purchased at www.possumpointplayers.org or the ticketline, 856-4560.

On Broadway, “Sleuth” won both the Tony and the Drama Critics Circle awards and held its popularity through film versions.

“Sleuth” is often described as the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse, if you can figure out who is the cat, and who, the mouse. Contrasting with the underlying current of evil residing there, the game of games is played out in a charming and cozy English country house.

Owner of the cottage, celebrated mystery writer Andrew Wyke is all tweeds and propriety, at least on the outside. He is not only a master of whodunnits; he also excels at games of all sorts, the more intricate and twisted, the better.

In his picture book home, he surrounds himself with game pieces and ancient weapons, maybe replicas, maybe the real thing, just waiting to become part of the action. Feeling confident and at the top of his game, Wyke invites a younger gamer guest, Milo Tindle, to visit. Does he know Tindle might share more with him than the love of the game?

The two plot out a murder mystery game of their own design, involving a staged robbery of an estranged wife who may even be an unfaithful wife. Robbery is outlined, revenge is devised, and murders plotted as the two plan the ultimate whodunnit. The actual mystery is where does the game end and reality begin?

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the Matthew McConaughey-Anne Hathaway suspense-thriller “Serenity”; the fantasy adventure film “The Kid Who Would Be King”; and the Laurel and Hardy biopic “Stan & Ollie.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday are the acclaimed films “The Wife” and “Boy Erased”; “The Nutcracker and The Four Realms”; and the action film “Hunter Killer.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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