Review Roundup: FLY at La Jolla Playhouse - What Did The Critics Think?

By: Mar. 10, 2020
Review Roundup: FLY at La Jolla Playhouse - What Did The Critics Think?

La Jolla Playhouse's Fly is currently playing through March 29 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre! The cast features Storm Lever (Playhouse/Broadway productions of SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical) as "Wendy" and Lincoln Clauss (Bat Out of Hell) as "Peter Pan." They are joined by Eric Anderson as "Hook," Victor E. Chan as "Boris," Audrey Cymone as "Slightly/Jane," Jeremy Davis as "Noodler," Nick Eibler as "Nibs," Collin Jeffery at "Curly," Nehal Joshi as "Smee," Liisi LaFontaine as "Crocodile," Isabelle McCalla as "Tink," Sean Pope as "Twins," David Price as "Skylights," Daniel Quadrino as "Toodles," Daniel Stewart Sherman as "Max," along with ensemble members Hettie Barnhill, Dayna Jarae Dantzler, Victoria Fiore, Shonica Gooden, Amara Granderson, Masumi Iwai, Emily Grace Kersey, Kamille Upshaw and Naomi C. Walley; and Lillith Freund, Jimmy Larkin, Jake Millgard and Alexia Sky as Swings.

Fly features a book by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph (Playhouse's Guards at the Taj, Broadway's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo); music by Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Bill Sherman (music director for Sesame Street; orchestrator for In the Heights); lyrics by Obie Award winner Kirsten Childs (The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin) and Rajiv Joseph, direction by multiple Tony Award-winning producer Jeffrey Seller (Hamilton, Rent, Avenue Q, In the Heights), and co-choreographed by three-time Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, Bandstand) and Stephanie Klemons (In the Heights).

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Charles McNulty, LA Times: "Fly" wants to probe the psychological wounds of its characters, but the show is so afraid of silence and so committed to wisecracks that it's impossible to take the interior lives of the characters all that seriously. [...] What's missing in "Fly" is trust in the power of storytelling to create images that can take flight inside the minds of audience members. Wendy's big number in the second act, "Somewhere a Woman," left me feeling nothing despite the beauty and power of Lever's singing. But there are simple moments in the final stages of the character's adventure when, alone with herself or quiet with Peter, the musical reveals a tenderness that ought to be more fully embraced in future productions.

E.H. Reiter, BroadwayWorld: FLY may not cover any new ground from the beloved children's tale, but it does provide an entertaining reminder to find the joy in life, have adventures with your friends, and that the worry and the wonder that is called growing up is a wonderful adventure of its own.

James Hebert, The San Diego Tribune: A few elements could use tuning up: The early establishing number "Fly" feels a bit more Broadway-generic than the rest of the score, and the script probably could lose a groaner joke or two (such as the overextended gag about the word "mayonnaise"). But there's a real sense of the raw and bittersweet playing beneath the late-in-show laments of Hook, who by this time is halfway to becoming Edward Scissorhands. And it turns out that "Fly" is at its most moving when it contemplates, after a long journey, finding a place to land.

Deborah Wilker, The Hollywood Reporter: But this seasoned cast doesn't just leap in the air for a few moments of novel distraction. Aerial designer Pichon Baldinu has them soaring from floor-to-rafters so quickly you feel it in your throat. The actors swoop and hover (Mission Impossible-style), spin and run through the air. Then just as magically, they disappear into the clouds. Of course it isn't magic, it's an elaborate system of harnesses in plain sight, snapped on as part of the choreography - a suggestion perhaps to the kids in the audience that this is a fantasy and jumping on the bed alone will only get you so far.