Fly Away Home

The opening night performance of children’s musical Angela’s Flying Bed began with an audience member rushing from his seat into the wings to loudly answer his cell phone as the lights went down, leaving his poor daughter sitting alone in the dark. The beginning of the show itself features neglected little Angela, whose two parents are so busy talking on cell phones that they never spend any quality time with her. If that’s not life imitating art (or the other way around), then what is? Locked up at home without a babysitter and no one to play with, little Angela must rely on her imagination to pass the time. She invents a flying, saucy bed that takes her to magical lands with charming creatures: a beach with a trio of selfish shellfish, a desert with a family of camels, and a mountain where llamas wear pajamas. In Angela’s mind, each of these wisecracking animals sings a similar cut time, upbeat number to entertain her. Can Angela eventually get her parents to do the same?

Angela’s Flying Bed is a charming idea poorly executed. Problems are apparent from the opening number, where the complicated patter structure evades young Maya Gaston, who plays the title character. While critiquing child performers is a precarious situation at best, there’s no denying that Gaston looks unhappy onstage throughout, particularly during her ballad “Again.” No one wants to watch a sad looking youngster. In the show’s penultimate and best number, personality-filled Luke Marcus, the show’s other child actor, blatantly outshines his female co-star. The minor-to-minor face-off creates an awkward tension onstage.

Book writer Karl Greenberg and composer Dave Hall should give Mel Brooks a call. Their show is peppered with the kind of vaudeville word shtick that would have made them a fortune 75 years ago. A huge majority of the show rhymes in an amusing way that never feels forced. Unfortunately, the production lacks the energy and the drive necessary for these puns to be consistently funny. Most just fall by the wayside. The adult character actors try their best to ham up the material, but the results are mixed, and the ending is anticlimactic at best.

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