If I gave you directions to immediately buy a ticket to see Fly by Night, would you follow them? Maybe, because you trust the authority of the printed word. Maybe you wouldn’t, because I didn’t give you any indication why you should see TheatreWorks’ newest rock musical, an off-beat romance about a man changing his life in the period of the famous New York City blackout of 1965. Maybe you would buy a ticket and then put your trust in a map that would lead you to the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Maybe you would like the show. Maybe you wouldn’t.
In life, we are constantly looking to signs. We read horoscopes, hit the gas at green lights and read reviews before buying tickets to a show. But, as we and the characters in Fly by Night discover, signs that fill us with hope can also suddenly lead to disappointment. Prophecies go unfulfilled, reckless drivers hit cautious ones and critics sometimes have different taste in musicals than their readers. Fly by Night maintains that, sometimes, direction, paradoxically, can best be found in the uncertainty of darkness.
So, what if I said that Fly by Night is a conceptually rich yet ultimately anticlimactic musical? If I claimed that the show disregards its most likable characters, the widowed Mr. McClam (James Judy) and ordinary yet honorable Miriam (Kristin Stokes), in favor of its least likable, the flippant aspiring Broadway star Daphne (Rachel Spencer Hewitt) and her miserable husband, Harold (Ian Leonard)—would you care? If I said that the show misses the opportunity to transform from palatable to poignant by giving the captivating Mr. McClam, a cheery melody accompanying what could be a touching ballad about his departed wife—would it matter? If I mentioned Wade McCollum’s riotous role as the omnipresent narrator, might you buy a ticket just to watch him weave the tangled narrative?
Maybe yes, maybe no. Fly by Night sustains the notion that signs can lead us astray, so rather than take my word for it, go and see for yourself? You might just be surprised.