FLY BY NIGHT flies high at TheatreWorks

(Left to Right)

A gypsy (Wade McCollum) explains a prophecy to Miriam (Kristin Stokes) in the world premiere of FLY BY NIGHT at TheatreWorks. (Photo credit Mark Kitaoka), Mr. McClam (James Judy) recalls when he first met his wife (Photo credit Tracy Martin). Harold the sandwich maker (Ian Leonard) and his disgruntled boss Crabble (Michael McCormick) wish for something new. (Photo credit Tracy Martin)

FLY BY NIGHT: Musical Comedy. Conceived by Kim Rosenstock with Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick, and Kim Rosenstock. TheatreWorks at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1395 Middlefield, Palo Alto, CA. 650-463-1960 or June 16 –August 13, 2011.

FLY BY NIGHT flies high at TheatreWorks

There seems to be a conspiracy afoot in the Bay Area with three local companies producing world premieres all requiring 2 hours and 50 minutes of running time. Whereas two (The Verona Project and Tales of the City) earned the label of “work in progress”, Fly by Night, the corner stone of TheatreWorks’ 2011 New Works Project is the complete package with one question. Why did the authors wait until almost the end of this fun/thoughtful evening to showcase the marvelous talent of James Judy with his show stopping aria that earned him a thunderous applause during the curtain call?

That curtain call received a well deserved standing ovation from the most appreciative audience even if it may have been stacked with family and friends of the cast. It is a most engaging story with appropriate pleasant, non-memorable indie rock (don’t ask) songs backed up by a visible backstage quartet, a superlative cast and inventive direction. So with the caveat mentioned in paragraph one, who could ask for anything more.

This world premiere is the collaboration of Kim Rosenstock’s fertile mind (Tigers be Still playing at SF Playhouse) in tandem with the music/lyrics of Michael Mitnick and Will Connolly. Rosenstock seems addicted to using narrators and in this show it is a gem of an idea especially with the multitalented Wade McCollum leading the way through the storyline with occasional hilarious/ explanatory flashbacks while becoming the ancillary characters. He has a marvelous voice that is displayed in a solo in act two that complements his falsetto as a fortune teller with prophecies that come to fruition.

The plot has been advertised as a love-story triangle and it certainly is that. The place is New York City. Nerdy sandwich maker Harold (Ian Leonard) inherits his deceased mother’s guitar from his grieving widowed father (James Judy) thus attempting to become a song writer. Two sisters with diverse personalities drive from North Dakota to NYC. Sweet Miriam (Kristin Stokes) is happy to be waitress while ambitious Daphne (Rachael Spencer Hewitt) wishes to be an actress. And now you can guess where the triangle angle comes to play.

The final characters thrown into the mix are Harold’s boss Crabbie (Michael McCormick) and Joey Storms (Keith Pinto) an unsuccessful playwright/producer. The interweaving of the lives of all of the characters is a bit complex but our great narrator prevents us from becoming confused. The ending is bittersweet and not “and they lived happily ever after” when all comes to a climax in the great blackout of the Northeast in November of 1965.

Ian Leonard adds just the right touch of humility to his role as he strums his ever present guitar trying to come up with the right love song. Michael McCormick’s mobile face, body language and comic timing as Crabbie will have you cheering for him when the blackout hits. Attractive Keith Pinto and Rachael Spencer Hewitt have excellent singing voices and provide needed contrast to Leonard and Stokes. The two hour and fifty minute running time “flies by” making Fly by Night a must see hit.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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