Take Flight, the new Richard Maltby-David Shire-Marsha Norman musical about man's passion for flying, may take wing at Charlotte Repertory Theatre in 2003, the centenary year of the Wright Brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.
Charlotte Rep producing artistic director Michael Bush told Playbill On-Line he is in discussions with commercial producer Marty Bell and composer Shire and lyricist Maltby about giving the show its world premiere at the North Carolina not-for-profit.
"It's a no-brainer for Charlotte because next year is the centennial of the Wright Brothers' flight," Bush said. "Take Flight is about aspirations. It's about man aspiring to almost anything."
On Dec. 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first of several "controlled, sustained flights in a power driven airplane," near Kitty Hawk, according to the Columbia Encyclopedia.
Bell's aim after trying out Take Flight regionally is New York City.The musical has gone through several drafts and picked up Pulitzer Prize-winner Norman along the way. *
Take Flight explores and celebrates man's need to take risks, through interweaving stories of famous aviators, including the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. Jekyll & Hyde's Christiane Noll performed Earhart in readings at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center in July-August 2001.
Jerry Mitchell is director-choreographer for the piece. Kevin Stites (Titanic, On the Town) has been attached as musical director of readings of the show since 2000.
"We're definitely looking at 2003," Bell previously told Playbill On-Line. "But I must tell you it is becoming almost impossible to be committed to new voices and new shows without any support from the press and especially the [New York] Times. Unless someone stands up for new work, the whole business is on the verge of becoming Encores! and 1960s and '70s rock albums on the stage. It's the main topic of discussion on the street. Whoops! There goes another theatre composer taking off for Hollywood."
Maltby and Shire are the songwriters whose urbane Off Broadway revues, Starting Here, Starting Now and Closer Than Ever, are beloved by fans of the form. Cabaret singers have plucked songs from the shows to present in nightspots around the world. Maltby and Shire also collaborated on the book musicals Baby and Big. Baby has been going through some revisions and readings in recent years and may surface in New York in 2003-04, Maltby told Playbill On Line.
Shire has scored motion pictures ("Norma Rae") and Maltby conceived and staged Aint' Misbehavin' and contributed lyrics to Miss Saigon. Maltby co-directed the Tony Award-winner, Fosse.
Bell, a veteran producer who is president of East Egg Entertainment, was one of the producers of Broadway's Sweet Smell of Success and co-producer of Off-Broadway's The Last 5 Years. His credits include the respected Tony Award-winners, Ragtime and Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Charlotte Rep's current season includes a co-production of M. Butterfly with Syracuse Stage and a new musical, Let Me Sing, a conceptual history of the Broadway musical, 1900-43. There are discussions about Charlotte Rep originating a Broadway-bound staging of The Miracle Worker in 2003, as well, Bush confirmed.
— By Kenneth Jones