Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot may at first appear to be your typical "boy meets girl" story, but there are mystical elements along with a deep sense of melancholy as it follows two sisters from South Dakota who move to New York City in the mid-1960s and the lost young man they meet. To say any more would give away the enjoyment of experiencing the many twists and turns in the show.
Conceived by Kim Rosenstock and written by Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick and Rosenstock, the musical was presented Off-Broadway in 2014. The score features several repeated musical themes, which helps to tie the various characters and the story elements together. The book incorporates a character who plays various roles, including the narrator, which expertly helps in guiding us through the story, especially in how he also plays various characters in the show. Also, the fun use of flashbacks and repeated scenes that are replayed after we learn other plot details adds to the uniqueness and originality of the piece. However, as fun and original as the show is, the second act gets bogged down a bit, there are shifts in tone that are slightly abrupt, and the ending doesn't seem quite as polished as the rest of the show.
Brian and Shelby Maticic are to be commended both for selecting to produce this somewhat ambitious musical and for their fluid direction of the production. This is one of their best directed shows, and their work is assured and clean. They also have found a cast who all deliver bright and charming performances, including Alexandra Utpadel and Sophia Chavez as the very opposite sisters Miriam and Daphne, and Jack Taylor as the soft-spoken sandwich-maker Harold, the boy who ends up becoming friends and possibly more with both. Utpadel shines as the spunky, simple, nerdy Miriam and Chavez is energetic as Daphne, an aspiring singer and actress who dreams of stardom, while Taylor is very good as a person whose life is monotonous, humdrum and uneventful until he meets the two sisters.
Thomas Smith's assured line delivery and use of fun accents and different voice works incredibly well for the Narrator as well as the various characters (of both sexes) that he plays. In smaller roles, Jonathan Gradilla is charming as Joey, the playwright who believes Daphne is his muse; Gerald Thomson infuses an appropriate level of sincerity and a hint of melancholy into the role of Harold's grieving father, who recently lost his wife; and Erin Van Liew is a hoot as Harold's boss.
CJ O'Hara's music direction achieves some lovely sounds from the cast and his keyboard and guitar playing adds a nice level of simple but smart music accompaniment to the production. I only wish the cast would project a little more, as there were several moments, especially during the quieter songs and scenes, at the performance I attended when I had to strain to hear the lyrics and dialogue. Robert Andrews' static set uses multiple levels and whimsically painted flats of New York City skylines to clearly portray the various locations in the show, and Jessie Tully's costumes are charming and appropriate period throwbacks.
While I wish the second act and the ending of Fly by Night were a little tighter, and you can't fault Brelby for those shortcomings in the show, it is still a fairly successful musical that focuses on love and fate. It's also an unpredictable and intriguing show full of romance and sweet and endearing characters which Brelby's cast do a very good job in bringing beautifully to life.
Fly by Night, through June 2nd, 2018, at Brelby Theatre Company, 7154 N 58th Drive, Glendale AZ. Tickets are available at www.brelby.com or by phone at 623-282-2781.
Directors: Brian Maticic and Shelby Maticic