The piece by composer-lyricist Robert Lindsay Nassif and librettist Peter Ullian was first seen under Prince's direction in 2000 as one of a trio of musical one-acts packaged as 3hree. Prince directed his third of triptych musical — which premiered at Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia in 2000 and played the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in 2001 — and then commissioned the expanded version of The Flight of the Lawnchair Man when 3hree didn't get picked up for Broadway.
The newly expanded show about a grassroots aviator has been developing quietly for more than a year and has been seen in private presentations, including a Dec. 8-12 Manhattan reading for Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. The reading cast included Rachel Ulanet, Herndon Lackey, Valerie Wright, Jeff Dumas, John Scherer, Donna Lynn Champlin, Michael McCormick, Nancy Opel and Jim Stanek. Michael Arnold (42nd Street) is attached as choreographer. Larry Yurman was musical director for the recent reading.
Now extricated from 3hree, the longer Flight of the Lawnchair Man is being considered as part of the 2004-05 season at Paper Mill, in Millburn, NJ. Prince would direct. A Paper Mill spokesman would not comment on the upcoming season, which has not yet been announced.
Sources say the original one-act, based on the real story of a man who wanted to fly and attached helium balloons to a lawnchair, is now placed as Act Two in the show, with a newly-penned Act One serving to introduce characters more fully.
Prince, of course, is the multiple Tony Award-winning producer and director who broke ground staging Cabaret, Company, Follies, Evita, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd and more. There was speculation for months in 2001 about 3hree coming to Broadway, but the commercial run never materialized after the regional stagings. A cast album was recorded on the DRG label.