Flying Over Sundown is, appropriately for its topic materials, an odd journey of a musical—pleasant in locations, disconnected in others, and a bore and downer in others. The actual draw is that this Lincoln Center musical (to Feb 6, 2022) has Tony Yazbeck as Cary Grant dancing and tap-dancing alongside Atticus Ware as Cary Grant’s youthful self. That is dancing, choreographed by Michelle Dorrance, as pure artistry, a mesmerizing pleasure nicely well worth the value of admission.
The musical, directed by James Lapine, follows an imagined assembly within the late 1950’s between Cary Grant (Yazbeck), Aldous Huxley (Harry Hadden-Paton), and Clare Boothe Luce (Carmen Cusack), all tripping off their faces on LSD at Luce’s glamorous Malibu mansion as their respective journeys cause them to confront outdated demons.
Aside from Yazbeck doing a second, fantastic dance routine, the drug-induced experiences result in ponderous distress and self-examination. The trio hail their drug-taking as liberating and enjoyable; it certain doesn’t appear that approach watching this present. As a substitute, it simply bears out the reality that there’s no worse journey than having to witness anyone else’s.
Alongside the three essential characters is Gerald Heard (Robert Sella), the so-called godfather of the brand new age who was near each Huxley and Luce and who serves as their their “information” on their druggy self-exploration However the play doesn’t clarify Heard’s presence or character, and on stage Sella is form of caught and ancillary. It’s unusual that the play doesn’t define who he’s, as a result of there are slabs that really feel like copied-and-pasted Wikipedia entries because the characters reveal bits about their childhoods and varied life markers and tragedies.
When particulars should not being clunkily imparted, the makers of the musical assume the viewers is aware of what they know—so, disgrace on you except you understand the relevance of Dalton Trumbo, or Grant’s connection to Randolph Scott. Each are talked about in passing, and each go unelaborated on.
The musical—with ebook by Lapine, music by Tom Kitt, and lyrics by Michael Korie—is titled by its sumptuously mounted lead tune, as Luce recollects an expertise on LSD that mimicked the feeling of flying round Los Angeles. It’s bizarre: a tune about drug-taking that sounds extra like a lush, romance quantity.
We first see the characters individually. Huxley’s first journey, alongside spouse Maria (Laura Shoop) and Gerald takes place in a drugstore, the place he questions the naming of Mum deodorant, and the presence of hemorrhoid preparations. Right here we first see the flexibility of Beowulf Boritt’s stage design—an empty ampitheater that ultimately takes on components of a Malibu beach-house, a roiling sea, and even a film-set because of projections by 59 Projections.
The title tune is essential to what doesn’t work concerning the present. Carmen Cusack sings it fantastically, nevertheless it—and the present—can’t cease restating that that is about taking LSD. It’s one factor for a present to function LSD taking as a gateway to character exploration, or one thing else, however simply to have the act of taking medication because the factor feels awfully like an individual insisting they’re cool, they are surely.
Solely Yazbeck-as-Grant’s drug taking feels revelatory on this sense, and never simply due to the improbable dancing. His childhood as Archie Leech and his reminiscences of his abusive father are genuinely affecting. Later, we see him whirl and feud and parry with Sophia Loren; after which we see him clad in a “penis rocket-ship” as his journey intensifies.
There may be lightness and darkish to his journey, a narrative, and a surreal flight of fancy. However, regardless of Haddon-Paton and Cusack’s performances, their characters’ tales are dreary, directionless, and repetitive; each are about grief—Huxley concerning the lack of his spouse, Luce concerning the deaths of her daughter and mom—and neither manages to flee the overwrought narrative cul-de-sacs they find yourself in. Flying Over Sundown feels a little bit too swish for the surreal mess of an LSD journey. Its finest bits, as an organization train, see the principals simply being excessive and silly as individuals on medication are, not listening to one another, simply lounging about fooling around.
There may be not, as one would possibly anticipate, a profound connection solid among the many individuals current. Every goes on their very own particular person journey round one another, however in non-public. What will we uncover about all of them that’s compelling, shocking? Not a lot. The truth that there was an enormous distance between Cary Grant the film star and Cary Grant the individual is hardly a shock. Huxley and Luce each miss their family members, as we’d anticipate them to.
There may be barely an indignant phrase mentioned between them in two hours and forty minutes; as a substitute, individuals repeat themselves about taking medication, man, and getting caught in their very own tales. Sobering up, Gerald says Clare was impolite to him when she was on her journey. Clare calls him as a pansy. And as a substitute of actually confronting of her about this, everybody form of talks everybody else off the ledge. She apologizes, nevertheless it’s an odd second of battle and unsatisfactory decision that serves to remind the viewers how denuded the present is of drama itself. Yazbeck’s dancing is a delight, however his dazzle can not save us from a foul journey.