BWW Reviews: FLY BY NIGHT Wears Its Romantic Youthful Hopefulness On Its Sleeve
"Where were you when the lights went out?" is a question that was heard all over America's northeast on November 10th, 1965, after the previous night's blackout left 30 million people without electricity for up to 13 hours.
Many New Yorkers - those who weren't trapped in elevators or subway trains or carefully maneuvering their cars home on dark roads without traffic signals - found themselves momentarily separated from the roaring power of the city in that tumultuous decade and saw their worlds in new lights.
That freak occurrence that affected so many lives, caused by a simple human error, is the catalyst that brings together the intersecting stories of Fly By Night, Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick and Kim Rosenstock's fanciful new musical that glides on wings of whimsy, fate, coincidence and the overpowering belief in finding one's soul mate. With a terrific cast directed by Carolyn Cantor, this one's a real charmer.
Narrated in a warm, Thurberish style by Henry Stram, the story begins exactly one year before that fateful night, when the mother of deli sandwich maker Harold (sweetly awkward Adam Chanler-Berat) passes on. While sorting through her possessions, Harold decides on a whim to take home the guitar she never learned to play.
Harold's new-found ability to compose pretty melodies helps him win the heart of Daphne (Patti Murin), a perky actress from South Dakota looking for her big break. She may have found it in Joey (Bryce Ryness), a playwright of questionable talent who is writing his new piece just for her, requiring her continual availability for rehearsals.
Daphne lives with, but rarely sees, her introverted sister Miriam, who grew up with a fascination for astronomy and gets fulfillment out of her job, waitressing the midnight shift in a Brooklyn diner. Following the cryptic signs given to her by a gypsy fortune teller (Stram), Miriam is lead to believe that Harold is her soul mate, not realizing he's seeing her sister.
But beyond the simplicity of the romantic triangle, Fly By Night is more about the human need for explanations. Why things happen and why they're happening to you.
That need is beautifully expressed in Peter Friedman's touching performance as Harold's grief-stricken father. He can barely let out his emotions for most of the musical, but when he does let them out by way of a happy memory, it's one of those glorious, joyous moments that musical theatre does so well. Likewise, Michael McCormick is a riot as Harold's grumbly boss, who thinks he has nothing left in his mundane sandwich-making life until fate slips him a shot at feeling alive again.
The four-piece on-stage band plays a spirited score that morphs musical theatre with indie rock through playful storytelling lyrics. A bit of an urban fable, Fly By Night wears its romantic youthful hopefulness on its sleeve and at Playwrights Horizons the look is quite fashionable.