The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, now in its third year, is a new-works festival produced by Underscore Theatre Company. We created CMTF for one reason: there’s a wealth of musical theatre creators and performers in Chicago, but the high risks of producing new musicals means that few companies are willing to take a chance, especially on new authors. CMTF is designed from the ground up to keep costs low by sharing resources, return half of all ticket proceeds to producers, and to showcase emerging authors from Chicago and beyond.
Book Music, and Lyrics by Michael Potsic.
Directed by Allison Hendrix and Allison Shoemaker.
Music Direction by Kevin Reeks.
Choreography by Gloria Mwez.
Produced by Kokandy Productions.
New Musical Ready for Debut.
It’s always a pleasure to see people make the most of a genre. Flight, a new musical by Michael Postic, has been floating around the script development scene for a few years, and the current version being produced by Kokandy Productions as part of the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival is ready for a full production. A chamber opera with only a single keyboardist (Kevin Reeks), Flight reimagines the story of Daedalus and Icarus from Greek mythology. Introspective, small musicals such as these often are filled with talk-songs and banging pianos, but Postic’s music is rich and melodic, and in this showing, the actors’ voices provide a sense of what a fully orchestrated version might sound like.
While a strong score is essential to the show’s continuation, this production, directed by Allison Hendrix and Allison Shoemaker, also has a very able cast and staging that is basic, but effective. Nathan Carroll and Lauren Kerbs play the craftsmen Daedalus and his wife, who start as a young couple without many prospects. Upon the birth of their son, Icarus (Nick Graffagna), Daedalus’s wife convinces him to move somewhere with more possibilities, but she dies on the journey, and Daedalus raises his son to believe that she has turned into a bird. Heartbroken when he discovers the truth, Icarus never loses his desire to fly, but his trust in his father is deeply shaken. Graffagna is remarkable for his ability to play a tragic child/teenager so plausibly, while keeping Icarus sympathetic. Carroll also manages to balance his character’s overprotectiveness and emotional distance while always reminding us of the fanciful genius that made Daedalus likable at the beginning of the play. The family is backed up by a seven-person chorus who also sing beautifully, and are integrated into the play’s action and songs seamlessly. There’s almost no mention of Minos or the Labyrinth here; Flight is about a father-son relationship and the way grief can destroy people or inspire them to accomplish great things. Although quite sad, Postic’s take on the story is a brilliant use of mythology, and a superb example of how to maximize the potential of a chamber musical.
Reviewed August 10, 2016.
For more information, see the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival’s webpage.
Playing in the upstairs at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, 2433 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago. Tickets are $20; to order, visit the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival’s website. Performances are August 19 at 8:30 pm, August 23 at 6:00 pm, and August 27 at 7:00 pm. Running time is eighty-five minutes.