In an age of reboots, the new Broadway-bound musical “Fly More Than You Fall,” which runs at Utah Valley University through Sept. 28, is a reminder that there are still so many powerful stories that have yet to be written and shared.
Deseret News: Orem, Utah – In the new musical “Fly More Than You Fall,” 14-year-old Malia brings her creative story about Willow, an insecure but hopeful bird, to Camp Write A-Lotta. Malia loves writing about Willow, but she’s hesitant to share the story with her peers. It’s still a rough draft, and she worries it’s too lighthearted and not as good as the other stories at camp.
But then the camp director encourages her to read it out loud. “We need all kinds of stories,” she tells Malia.
And that is the big takeaway from the Broadway-bound musical “Fly More Than You Fall.”
The top five attended shows on Broadway last season were “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” “Frozen” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Even in an age of dominant titles, remakes and adaptations, the original musical “Fly More Than You Fall,” which runs at Utah Valley University through Sept. 28, has a shot at Broadway — and it deserves to be there. The musical is a reminder that there are still so many powerful stories that have yet to be written and shared.
And “Fly More Than You Fall” is a story that will hit home for just about everyone. Malia’s time at Camp Write A-Lotta gets cut short when her parents deliver the news that her mom is sick. We don’t hear the entire conversation, but we hear this much: “Stage 4.”
Malia’s life unravels as she processes that diagnosis. At times it seems she doesn’t even understand the magnitude of that diagnosis — like when she sneaks out of the house to hang out with her friends instead of spending valuable time with her mom. But then there’s the moment when Malia’s mom reads her daughter’s updated story about Willow. Willow loves her friend Flynn dearly, but decides to leave him behind because she wants to go to the top of the mountain to see what it’s like.
It doesn’t make sense for Willow to leave Flynn behind, Malia’s mother says. Because Willow loves Flynn. And then, with tears, Malia looks at her mom and tells her that sometimes the people we love do leave us behind.
This is an emotional musical. Writer Eric Holmes and composer Nat Zegree both lost a parent to cancer at an early age. The two have spent three years weaving their own grieving processes into this creative story. And perhaps that’s what makes “Fly More Than You Fall” all the more poignant.
“Anyone who’s lost someone knows that with grief, there’s no time limit. It’s not three months and you’re out,” Holmes previously told the Deseret News. “You’re grieving the loss of a parent or any loved one for the rest of your life.”
Musical theater is a chance to take a break from real-world problems — two or three hours to forget about the stresses of day-to-day life. “Fly More Than You Fall” has elements of escapism — primarily through Malia’s story about Willow — but it also shows that there is power in using the stage to confront those real-world problems head-on.
“I don’t know a single other story (on Broadway) that’s dealt with a child losing a parent, or for that matter, grief,” Holmes said. “It’s a topic most musicals shy away from. … Something that should be talked about more.”
“Fly More Than You Fall” is a creative story that can help fill that void. But it’s not always sad, and at times, it’s downright funny. Zegree’s music is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming (and be warned: the title song is bound to get stuck in your head). Director Jeff Whiting (“Bullets Over Broadway,” “Big Fish”) has done a fantastic job blending Willow’s fantasy story with Malia’s real-life tragedy onstage. And the young cast that brings this story to life — including 17-year-old Lexi Walker as Malia, 17-year-old Autumn Best as Willow, middle-schooler Cairo McGee as Flynn, among others — is remarkable.
In an age of reboots, the originality of “Fly More Than You Fall” is refreshing. It’s nice to sit and watch a production that has no point of comparison. But even though “Fly More Than You Fall” has never been told before, it’s a story far too many people have lived.
“This is one of those shows where I could not have dreamt that up by myself,” Walker said. “Yet, at the same time, it’s like, ‘I know this story.’ How has this not always been here?”