January 31st, 2009

storyteller doll

The Flight of the Lawnchair Man

About 8 years ago, I saw a musical called 3hree in Los Angeles. It consisted of 3 one-act musicals, the most amusing of which was "The Flight of the Lawnchair Man" by Peter Ullian (book) and Robert Lindsey-Nassif (score).

So when I saw that an expanded (i.e. full-length) version of The Flight of the Lawnchair Man was playing at a small theatre in Alexandria I had to go. Metropolitan Performing Arts Theatre (or MPAT) is an amateur group which was using The Lab @ Convergence. Since I get lost whenever I set foot (or, in this case, since it was not metro convenient, tire) in Alexandria, I left lots of time to get there, which is good since I did, indeed get lost and had to drive the length of Quaker Lane twice to find the place.

It was worth the effort. It turns out that what I'd seen previously is the second act of the expanded show. The first act sets a lively and suitably subversive tone right off in the lively production number, "Everything is Perfect in Passaic." It moves on to explain a lot about who Jerry Gorman is and how he comes to decide on fulfilling his dream of flight (with a lawnchair and 400 helium balloons). It culminates in the lovely "I Want to Fly" - a poignant message about recognizing one's dreams.

The second act involves the actual flight and includes the stirring song, "The Air is Free" (which I will, by the way, inevitably walk around singing for the next several days). Jerry encounters Leonardo DaVinci, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart, all of whom encourage him. (The Lindbergh number, "Never Finish Before You Are Finished" makes for a particularly rousing production number.) The lyrics are often witty. For example, the tango number, "What is That?" has this little tidbit"

Are you telling me, Blaire,
There's a man over there
Three miles in the air
In a patio chair
Like the chair that you bought at Walmart?


All in all, it's silly and fun, with some poignant moments.

As for the performances, they were mixed. Several of the performers had trouble projecting their voices over the music. (Stephanie Gaia Chu, who played Blaire, seemed to have trouble with projection even without music.) Sam Rhem, who played Big Jack, was off-key at some points. But John Lunsford was competent as Jerry Gorman. John McGinness was very strong as Charles Lindbergh. The strongest performer was Abbey Smith as Gracie, who has both a fine voice and excellent comic timing.

I hope this show continues to get tuned and gets a major professional run some time in the future. We need more old fashioned musical comedies. By the way, if you do a YouTube search, you can find a couple of versions of some of the songs, including surprisingly strong performances from a high school production.