Cary Grant is high on LSD in “Flying Over Sunset”. Everyone has a bad trip.


Fly over the sunset is, appropriately for its subject matter, a strange journey of a musical – delicious in places, out of touch in others, and mostly boring and depressing. The real draw is that this Lincoln Center musical (until February 6, 2022) has Tony Yazbeck as Cary Grant dancing and dancing alongside Atticus Ware as Cary Grant’s youngest. It’s dance, choreographed by Michelle Dorrance, like pure art.

The musical, directed by James Lapine, follows an imagined encounter in the late 1950s between Cary Grant (Yazbeck), Aldous Huxley (Harry Hadden-Paton) and Clare Boothe Luce (Carmen Cusack), all tripping over LSD. at Luce’s the glamorous Malibu mansion as their respective journeys bring them face to face with old demons.

Aside from Yazbeck doing a second and wonderful dance routine, the drug-induced experiences lead to heavy misery and self-examination. The trio hail their drug use as liberating and fun; this certainly does not appear to be the case while watching this show. Instead, it just confirms the truth that there is no worse trip than having to attend someone else’s.

Alongside the three main characters is Gerald Heard (Robert Sella), the so-called New Age Godfather who was close to both Huxley and Luce and who serves as their “guide” in their drugged self-exploration. But the play doesn’t explain Heard’s presence or character, and on stage, Sella is sort of stuck and incidental. It’s odd that the play doesn’t describe who he is, as there are tiles that look like copy-pasted Wikipedia entries as the characters reveal pieces from their childhood and various markers of life and tragedy.

When details aren’t awkwardly communicated, the musical’s creators assume audiences know what they know, so shame on you unless you know of Dalton Trumbo’s relevance or Grant’s connection to Randolph Scott. Both are mentioned in passing, and both are not elaborate.

The musical – featuring a book by Rabbit, music by Tom Kitt, and lyrics by Michael Korie – is titled by its lavishly edited main song, as Luce recalls an LSD experience that mimicked the sensation of flying around. Los Angeles. It’s weird: a song about drug use that feels more like a romantic, lush number.

We first see the characters separately. Huxley’s first trip, alongside his wife Maria (Laura Shoop) and Gerald, takes place at a drugstore, where he questions the name of Mum deodorant and the presence of hemorrhoid preparations. Here we first see the versatility of Beowulf Boritt’s set design – an empty amphitheater that ultimately takes elements of a Malibu beach house, rough seas, and even a movie set thanks to the screenings of 59 Screenings.

The title song is the key to what goes wrong in the series. Carmen Cusack sings it beautifully, but she – and the show – keeps repeating that it’s all about taking LSD. It’s one thing for a show to present taking LSD as a gateway to character exploration, or whatever, but just to have the act of taking drugs because it looks awfully like a pushy person. that she’s cool, she really is.

From left to right: Tony Yazbeck, Harry Hadden-Paton and Carmen Cusack in ‘Flying Over Sunset.’

Jeanne Marcus

Only Yazbeck-as-Grant’s drug use is revealing in this sense, and not just because of the fantastic dancing. His childhood as Archie Leech and his memories of his abusive father are truly touching. Later, we see him swirling, quarreling, and parrying with Sophia Loren; then we see him dressed in a “penis rocket” as his journey intensifies.

There is lightness and darkness in his journey, a story and a surreal flight. But, despite the performances of Haddon-Paton and Cusack, their characters’ stories are bleak, directionless, and repetitive; both speak of heartbreak – Huxley over the loss of his wife, Luce over the deaths of his daughter and mother – and neither manages to escape the overworked narrative dead ends they find themselves in. Fly over the sunset feels a little too gracious for the surreal mess of an LSD trip. Its best parts, as a business exercise, are seeing the principals just being high and dumb like people on drugs, not getting along, just basking in being dumb.

There is not, as one would expect, a deep bond forged between those present. Each makes their own journey around each other, but in private. What do we discover about them that is convincing, surprising? Not a lot. The fact that there has been a huge distance between Cary Grant the movie star and Cary Grant the person is not much of a surprise. Huxley and Luce both miss their loved ones, as we expected them to.

There is barely a word of anger uttered between them in two hours and forty minutes; instead people repeat themselves about using drugs, man, and getting stuck in their own stories. Disgusted, Gerald says Clare was rude to him when she was traveling. Clare calls it like a thought. And instead of really confronting her about it, everyone’s talking to everyone off the rim. She apologizes, but it’s a strange moment of conflict and unsatisfying resolution that serves to remind audiences how stripped of drama the show itself. Yazbeck’s dance is a delight, but her dazzling can’t save us from a bad trip.

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