FLY Lands at La Jolla Playhouse

This production took me by surprise during its opening evening at La Jolla Playhouse.

Storm Lever (center) with ensemble in La Jolla Playhouse’s production of FLY, book by Rajiv Joseph, music by Bill Sherman, lyrics by Kirsten Childs and Rajiv Joseph, directed by Jeffrey Seller, choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler and Stephanie Klemons, running February 18 – March 29; photo by Kevin Berne

I am not a choreography guy, but the dancing is as good as I have seen.
Captain Hook is excellent. A blend of John (Monty Python) Cleese and Ian (Jethro Tull) Anderson, Eric Anderson is superb comic relief. He has very good comedic timing, a strong voice and smooth dance moves.
The Lost Boys are equally good, very solid and confident in their singing and dancing.
The stage design is colorful and clever, shifting from Wendy’s bedroom to the island to the pirate’s ship. Bamboo is a consistent theme, cleverly used to evoke a lost land, inhabited by a mysterious crocodile.
And in keeping with the show’s title, three characters indeed fly. Peter Pan teaches Wendy to forget everything, enabling her to fly to Neverland. Memories weigh you down, after all. But ever on the lookout is Tinkerbell, with a growing jealousy as Peter and Wendy grow closer.

Nehal Joshi and Eric Anderson in La Jolla Playhouse’s production of FLY; photo by Kevin Berne.

The flying acrobatics are not overdone, but used very effectively. At times the vibrant stage design and swooping actors were reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil, not a bad comparison by any means.
Andy Blankenbuehler and Stephanie Klemons are responsible for the superb choreography. The former is a three time Tony Award winner (Bandstand, In The Heights and Hamilton) and the latter also worked in Hamilton.
Composer Bill Sherman capitalizes on his extensive work with Sesame Street and Electric Company with some evocative melodies. He has been previously awarded Tony and Grammy Awards for his involvement with Hamilton and In The Heights. Here he leans into his interest in African percussion.

Isabelle McCalla, Nehal Joshi and Eric Anderson; photo by Kevin Berne.

(L-R) Sean Pope, Lincoln Clauss, Storm Lever and Collin Jeffery in La Jolla Playhouse’s production of FLY; photo by Kevin Berne.

Rajiv Joseph (librettist and co-lyricist) has previously garnered a Pulitzer Prize and an Obie Award.  Here he provides myriad clever lyrical wordplay. As co-lyricist for Fly, Kirsten Childs brings myriad songwriting awards.
The highlight of the first act is the third musical number “We Not Boys.” It is a showstopper introduction to the youthful vigor of the inhabitants of Neverland, building to a stirring crescendo. “I Miss My Hand” is Hook’s time in the spotlight, which Anderson fills to full effect.
The familiar story is retold from Wendy’s perspective, exploring the blunt reality that everyone grows up. Except of course Peter, who is the only one who does not change. As Peter Pan, Lincoln Clauss therefore has the most challenging role. Each of the other characters evolve over the course of the story, making their journey more interesting than Peter’s.

Eric Anderson (center) and ensemble in La Jolla Playhouse’s production of FLY, book by Rajiv Joseph, music by Bill Sherman, lyrics by Kirsten Childs and Rajiv Joseph, directed by Jeffrey Seller, choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler and Stephanie Klemons, running February 18 – March 29; photo by Kevin Berne.

In the pivotal role of Wendy, Storm Lever performs with aplomb.
As with other intriguing efforts at retelling a familiar story from a different perspective (Wicked, Lion King 1½, The Wind Done Gone), Fly offers a surprisingly fruitful take on J.M. Barrie’s fabled tale.

Ticket information here.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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