BWW Review: UP AND AWAY at Broadway Rose
Aside from U2's disastrous Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, comic books and superheroes haven't been common fodder for musicals. Fortunately, UP AND AWAY is here to rectify that. Now in its second-ever production at Broadway Rose, this fun, funny, and creatively directed new musical is just the thing to make you feel less sad about all of the rain.
UP AND AWAY combines just about every comic book / superhero trope you can think of: aliens posing as humans, a city ravaged by crime, weird villains, an eccentric billionaire, a plucky reporter, someone who wants to hide their identity, silly costumes, and on, and on....
In the prologue, a king and queen of another planet put their newborn into an egg and send him to Earth to keep him safe until he's ready to come back and take his rightful place as ruler. Fast-forward 20ish years to Farmtown, USA, the home of brothers Joe and Jerry Jessup. While digging a hole for a new outhouse, Joe finds the egg, which contains a pair of red gloves, which, he discovers, confer magic powers. Convinced this is a sign that he is meant for more than farm chores, Joe leaves the family to go to Big City. In short order, he lands the job of his dreams and starts dating the woman of his dreams. Then he meets an eccentric billionaire and starts performing good deeds. But, when his dream girl declines his marriage proposal, Joe decides that being a hero isn't all it's cracked up to be and he joins the ranks of the villains. Who will save Big City now???
UP AND AWAY is a fast-moving, Bam! Pow! Splat! of a good time featuring dozens of characters, all played by five very hard-working actors. I was especially charmed by Malia Tippets as Susie Dare, the stop-at-nothing reporter who is constantly thwarted by men who don't believe in her, and by Joe Theissen as the eccentric billionaire, Ronak Fairchild. But the performer who really lights up the stage is Danielle Valentine. Whether she's playing the no-nonsense Mother Jessup or the nothing-but-nonsense Roxy Moron, her comedic talents are on full display, as is her powerful voice.
Appropriately for the superhero genre, there's a lot of theatre magic in this show, and Dan Murphy's direction is spot-on, milking every moment for all its corny, campy worth. There are the obligatory groaners, but most of the laughs come from clever surprises, none of which I want to give away. The least compelling aspect of UP AND AWAY is actually the music -- the songs are all just a little too slow for the show's otherwise lightning-fast pace.
Overall, UP AND AWAY is a major departure from what we normally see at Broadway Rose, and that's also part of what makes it so fun. Kudos to Murphy and the rest of the team for continuing to bring new musicals to Portland. This one, in particular, will appeal to a demographic that's more likely to seek out a movie than a live theatre performance, and I hope it succeeds in expanding the Broadway Rose audience by demonstrating the incredible variety that falls under the "musical" umbrella.
UP AND AWAY runs through Feb. 23. More details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Sam Ortega