Finding Neverland has been launched in a whirl of publicity and is playing an out of town tryout at Leicester Curve for just a few more days. Produced by Hollywood legend Harvey Weirstein with a budget rarely seen at Leicester, Finding Neverland is a musical version of the film which examines the life of Peter Pan writer J. M. Barrie and his friendship with Sylvia Llywelyn Davies, a local widow whom the married Barrie befriends during an afternoon spent writing in the park where he meets her four sons playing. The musical has direction and choreography by the award winning Rob Ashford, features flying, a pirate ship, a car travelling through the English countryside, and a large St Bernard dog and stars Julian Ovenden as Barrie and Rosalie Craig as Sylvia.

They say that musicals are not written but rewritten and this is certainly the case here. The initial critical response following opening night earlier this month was that there was promising material which needed to be executed with more precision (especially Allan Knee's book in the first half). With less than a week until the end of the run, changes were made to the show at the previous performance to the one I attended, and tweeted by the leading man as a 'new Neverland'. Indeed, musical director David Charles Abell - a master in his field - was heard giving the orchestra directions as to which bars were cut and which sections reinstated just before the performance began. Stage hands could be seen frantically scurrying back and forth on the sides too. So the company are flying a little bit by the seat of their pants as the show readies for an intended West End and Broadway transfer.

There are many things to enjoy in this brand new musical. The whole show is visually stunning and the lead performances are of the highest calibre with leading man Ovenden hardly leaving the stage for the whole two and a half hour show. He even coped with a large St Bernard (Porthos) who tried to escape elsewhere much of the time! Ovenden's Barrie is a vulnerable man who has lost his younger brother at a young age and retained a childlike quality in his love of life. He is in a childless marriage and gains real joy from his friendship with Sylvia and her four sons, particularly budding writer Peter who of course becomes the inspiration for Barrie's greatest literary success. And Rosalie Craig affirms her position as one of our most exciting musical leading ladies as Sylvia, a lady who embraces friendship with the married Barrie somewhat naively but in the interests of her sons' happiness rather than her own selfishness. Craig has a wonderful open round face and a stance that bring a genuine warmth to the character, and her vocals soar in all her numbers, especially in 'He Makes Me Smile', sung to her dubious mother (played by West End trooper Liz Robertson). Clare Foster is also well cast as Barrie's wife, with her long facial features a nice contrast to Craig and she succeeds in eliciting less sympathy than her romantic rival.

However, there is inevitably also much to improve and develop. Grey Gardens' Scott Frankel and Michael Korie's music and lyrics don't quite make their mark as they should - there are some great tunes here, though some could be developed further into the soaring blockbusters they have the potential to be for this musical to really make its mark, and the lyrics are a little trite in places and need some refocusing. The opening number 'Opening Night' where Barrie faces a theatrical flop with his latest play fails to ignite the audience's interest in the show as it should and the choreography lacks a sense of focus and panache here too, with no distinct stylisation (I have a feeling this opening section may have just been changed as part of the 'new Neverland'). However, the real problem lies as to whether this musical (featuring four talented and believable boy actors in leading roles) is suitable for children or whether the story should focus more on the central love triangle and the more adult themes. At times, I wished that we could dispense with the more childish elements of the Pan story such as Captain Hook's interventions (amusing though Oliver Boot is in the dual roles of Hook and a theatre critic), and reimagine the story as a chamber piece, focusing on Barrie, Sylvia and Mary Barrie. Though billed as a musical comedy, the story is more of a musical drama than that suggests, and some scenes (especially one number done as a kind of Highland Fling) inevitably interrupt the human story and feel superfluous, but this is an inherent problem in this Peter Pan story which combines wonder and human reality. In contrast, wIth tension mounting between Barrie and his wife during the first half as he becomes involved with Sylvia and family, Mary Barrie's character is practically jettisoned in the second half. Somewhat out of the blue, Mary becomes the inspiration for the character of Tinker Bell, but a few scenes later Barrie reveals to Sylvia that his wife has left him without any real build up to this. Sylvia's illness is also quite rushed and her eventual demise ascending a heavenly staircase brings Grizabella in Cats to mind - albeit with a cliff-top edge to the top of the staircase which one fears Craig will fall off, before the spotlight fades on her for the final time. And the line when the boys excitedly try on new suits and talk about 'embellishing' themselves needs to be changed too - have young boys ever used such a phrase?! Only in Neverland!

A number of letters between Barrie and Sylvia are sung (always equisitively) by Ovenden and Craig with the letters' contents projected onto the back of the set - there hasn't been so much correspondence in a musical since Sondheim's Passion - but these are the human heart of the piece and are effective here. The sets (Scott Pask) are quite opulent, featuring the front of the theatre and Barrie and Llywelyn Davies' houses, along with the English countryside and Kensington Gardens. However, one can't come out of a musical humming the sets, and one has the impression that there have been so many changes to this musical that Neverland and the true potential of the piece have yet to be found. But that is of course what out of town tryouts are all about, and although this one is nowhere nearly as polished or fully realised as, for example, Mary Poppins was when it played out of town at the Bristol Hippodrome some years ago, with further refocusing and tinker-belling Neverland may yet become the story it deserves - and needs - to be.