“Journey” is not a word I like to use when speaking about any aspect of putting together a theater production. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time a performer spoke to me about “the journey my character takes” or a director described “the journey of the play’s narrative” I’d be richer than Bloomberg. I try to enforce this prohibition for all of journey’s synonyms: odyssey, outing, quest, route, voyage: you name it. I will, however, for the purposes of this one blog posting, make an exception for “trip.”
For that was the word on many lips at the meet-and-greet the other day for Flying Over Sunset. Milling about LCT’s large rehearsal room and referring to the weeks of rehearsals and previews upon which the cast and creatives were about to embark, at least three actors dropped the journey-speak and told me: “It’s gonna be quite a trip!”
And how could the word substitution have been avoided? This is a musical about taking LSD in Hollywood in the 1950s, and tripping is definitely on the menu.
Also on the bill of fare at the meet-and-greet: a speech by LCT Producing Artistic Director Andre Bishop in which he welcomed cast, creatives, and the theater’s staff to the beginning of an exciting process of putting together a new musical; and brief explanations from the show’s creative team about how they went about their work for Flying Over Sunset.
Costume designer Toni-Leslie James spoke about the need not simply to provide a period costume exhibition but clothing in which the characters could live and breathe. Lighting designer Bradley King shared his lighting plot. Choreographer Michelle Dorrance, making her Broadway debut, talked about the way the show’s movement will arise from the steps of everyday life. Sound designer Dan Moses Schreier spoke about the version of unofficial surround-sound that will be employed throughout the Beaumont. And orchestrator extraordinaire Michael Starobin assured us that the 13 instrumentalists in the production’s pit would sound like an even larger orchestra.
The captain of this ship – the tour guide to this trip – is director and book writer James Lapine. He told the meet-and-greet that 2020 marks the sixth year that he and collaborators Tom Kitt (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics) have been crafting the project. Lapine praised Kitt and Korie’s work and briefly outlined the starts and stops of the creative process, which have included sessions at Martha Vineyard’s Playhouse. During the collective spieling of Lapine, Kitt, and Korie, we learned many things, including that the show once included a song for principal character Clare Boothe Luce – a former U.S. Congresswoman – called “Washington Boys’ Club.” It’s a terrific song, Lapine said, but doesn’t quite work in context of the finished musical.
I will refrain from relating that number’s subject to the current political situation. Instead, I will pass along Lapine’s thought that “Washington Boys’ Club” could one day form part of an evening of discarded “Sunset” songs at the Manhattan nightspot 54 Below.
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com