Theatre: Take Flight

It turned out to be the second time in about a month that I saw a show featuring Amelia Earhart. The first show was An Air Balloon over Antarctica that I saw in Melbourne and which is now getting fabulous reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe. I thought that show was a bit crap with very uninteresting characters, but that just goes to show how much I know...

Anyway this show is a musical about flying planes featuring the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. It is having its world premiere at the Menier Chocolate Factory but it has been in development for a while. I guess songs about engine drag, staying awake and 3.14 squared just don't cut it with investors. It was and obscure choice for a musical but I'd heard word that the songs and the production were good, so I went and saw it with John. John was glad I wanted to see this as he couldn't think of anybody else who would. I was just glad he got there before me and grabbed a good seat since the seating is unreserved...

But we both were curious about the show created by musical theatre veterans David Shire, Richard Maltby Jr and John Weidman... So how was it?

Well, at times during the longish first act both of us wondered if we were watching some Sondheim-esque show like Sunday in Glider with Orville (minus the depth and agonising torch songs). Getting up at intermission (to go directly to the bar) we realised that an hour and twenty minutes on fringe theatre seats is more than anyone's bottom should take. But there was a consensus that the performances, music and the overall production were pretty good. Still it was weird subject matter for a musical. And the camp interpretation of the Wilbur and Orville Wright made me wonder what those two brothers really were getting up to in those sand dunes in North Carolina.

By the second act however things started to take... er... off and work a lot better as Amelia Earhart's story comes out more. It is the strongest of the three stories and a pity that it isn't the central focus of the show. Amelia had a pretty interesting life before she ran out of fuel in Papua and went pffft. Then again there were loads of potential possibilities for this show including having a set design that didn't look like the basement of an old chocolate factory but I guess we have to take it for what it is.

Definitely a show worth catching, particularly since there are plenty of deals about to see it for under £20. And now that the Chocolate Factory has air conditioning (which helped one dry out from the torrential downpour that lasted the short walk from London Bridge) there won't be any more repeats of last year's hand-held fan theatre... Now that's an a major technological advance worth writing about...

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