Neverland comes to the Ritz this weekend

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A journey to an amazing land of villainous pirates, magical mermaids, fantastical fairies, intriguing Indian princesses and a band of boisterous “lost boys” is in store for the Camellia City as Sonya’s Dance and Fitness brings its 21st annual production “Finding Neverland” to the Ritz stage this Friday and Saturday night.

This year’s recital is based around author J.M. Barrie’s familiar and beloved creation, Peter Pan, but it also offers insight into just how Peter ended up in Neverland in the first place, says dance instructor Sonya Rice.

“We begin the story in 1904 London with Peter as an infant. We see how he gets lost and how Tinkerbell comes to his rescue. It’s quite the tear jerker . . . then we jump ahead to Peter coming back to London to visit his old home where he loses his Shadow,” explains Rice.

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“The whole nursery scene is danced out onstage. Then Peter teaches the Darling children how to fly—and off to Neverland they go with one of my personal favorite quotes, ‘Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.’”

Rice promises a generous taste of Neverland for the audience. From the antics of Captain Hook and his band of pirates along with the wily Ole Crocodile who relentlessly hunts Hook, to visits to the Mermaid Lagoon, the village where the Indian princess Tiger Lily resides, to the home of the Lost Boys themselves—’Finding Neverland’ promises to delight audience members of all ages.

“I do feel this production is quite entertaining with a little something for everyone. And who doesn’t love the story of Peter Pan . . . ‘to never grow up . . . is quite the adventure,’” says Rice.

Principal dancers for “Finding Neverland” include Amber Smith as Peter, Sydni Bowers as Tinkerbell, Kimball Nall as Wendy Darling, Hannah Sells as Wendy’s brother, John and Hayden Fail as their youngest brother, Michael. Xada Ingram performs double duty as both Nana, the Darling family’s dog and nursemaid, and Captain Hook. Riley Campbell dances the role of Peter’s Shadow and Princess Tiger Lily. Sarah Nichols is Mother Darling and Lance Smith is Father Darling, George.

Several guest performers will also appear on stage with Sonya’s students this weekend.

Courtney Rice, an alumnus dancer who trained for 14 years with her mother, presently works alongside her mom as an artist-in-residence teacher. Her older sister Cory Rice, an alumnus dancer with 13 years of tutelage from her mother, is returning home to perform in the production.  Mary Hannah Miller, an alumnus dancer who studied for 12 years with Rice, will return to Greenville to appear in a special scene with Cory.

Also returning for this year’s production to perform with Courtney Rice is Olivia Glenn, an alumnus dancer who studied for 11 years with “Miss” Sonya. 

Just what characters will these special guest dancers play?

“You’ll have to come see ‘Finding Neverland’ for the answer,” says Rice with a teasing grin.

“This is our 21st production, and they just keep getting better and better. I have loved all our productions, and it’s really hard to pick a favorite. I am just happy to be able to share the arts through dance in my hometown and to be able to create these productions each and every year.”

“Finding Neverland” is set for Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. at the Ritz. Tickets, which are $10 for adults and $5 for students, are available at McFerrin’s Jewelry downtown and at the box office each show night.