In 2011, Tom Hewitt portrayed the “swiniest swine in the world,” Captain Hook, in a national tour of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby. He’s back in pirate regalia and touring again, this time playing a very different incarnation of Hook in the musical Finding Neverland.
Based on the 2004 film of the same name, Finding Neverland tells the story of Peter Pan’s creator, J.M. Barrie (played by Kevin Kern), who finds his voice as a playwright after meeting the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Christine Dwyer) and her four young sons: Jack, George, Michael, and Peter. Directed by Diane Paulus, the show has a book by James Graham and a score by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy.
Hewitt, who also portrays Charles Frohman, the American who produced the original production of Peter Pan in London in 1904 and was a close friend of Barrie’s, believes that playing Captain Hook previously was an advantage when he auditioned for the show. “I understood the dynamic, and I had a bag of tricks that I felt would put me on the short list,” he says. But once he was cast in the part, he left that other Captain Hook behind. “I let go of it, and explored a whole different aspect of Hook. In this show, Hook is really a facet of J.M. Barrie’s own personality. It manifests itself to encourage Barrie to explore his darker side, to ‘pirate up’ and have the courage of his convictions to write his own story. This Hook is less effete, less of a King Louis, than the Hook in Peter Pan. The Captain Hook in Finding Neverland is more Keith Richards, and the Captain Hook in Peter Pan is a little more Jo Anne Worley.”
The show, which has upcoming west coast stops in Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco, has undergone changes for the tour. “They could easily have taken the Broadway version out on the road, because people love it,” says Hewitt. “But the producers were very generous. They said, ‘Here are some things that could be improved, so let’s take this opportunity to make them better.’ The events of the show haven’t changed, but the storytelling is more efficient. They’ve added some new material; I would say the first half hour of the show is different structurally, and there have been some changes to the end. It was wonderful for us as a cast, because we got to be part of the creation of something new. That galvanized us. It made us more of a team, and made the experience much more rewarding.”
Hewitt has had a long and varied career in theatre, which includes touring the United States and performing at international theatre festivals with the Suzuki Company of Toga (Japan), and appearing in plays by William Shakespeare, Noël Coward, Tom Stoppard, and Wendy Wasserstein. He is most recognized for his work in Broadway musicals, and is especially drawn to larger-than-life roles: Frank ’N‘ Furter in The Rocky Horror Show (which earned him a Tony nomination); Dracula in Dracula, The Musical; Scar in The Lion King; and—of course—Captain Hook.
“I’ve never had much interest in naturalistic doctors, lawyers,” he says. “I like the idea of tapping into an energy that’s bigger than everyday life. At the risk of sounding self-analytical or psychological, I am by nature a classic introvert. I really need the quiet time, and I have trouble at parties. But as an actor, a rehearsal room is a safe place to express oneself. These bigger-than-life, fictional characters are so appealing to me because I get to step out of myself and inhabit something much, much larger.”