The 1960s "fly me" world of "flyboys" and "stews" takes theatrical flight in Suzy Conn's "Plane Crazy," a new musical brimming with infectious tunes and boundless energy.
The show focuses on three stewardesses at Venus Airlines: sweet Faith Hope (Allison Spratt), experiencing life away from home for the first time; Janet Jones (Sarah Mugavero), wounded by guys and now just out for a good time; and effervescent would-be actor Holly Banks (Hollie Howard). Faith finds herself transformed thanks to Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique," Janet discovers true love in sensitive pilot Brett (Richard Todd Adams), and Holly, after some false starts, comes into her own as an advertising executive.
Even as these three pursue their dreams and contend with the obstacles thrown at them -- unwanted advances from the smarmy airline president (William Broderick), some petty infighting, and a false pregnancy -- the show parodies the advertising industry (with some unfortunate anachronisms) and condemns the era's sexism. There's a lot of material in "Plane Crazy" and that's one of its chief flaws: We're never quite sure what sort of musical it aspires to be. There are times when it has enormous heart (Faith's touching "Simpler Times," which Spratt delivers with Karen Carpenter-like clarity). There are other times -- Janet's searing "Turbulence" -- when the story is undercut by silliness (as Janet sings about her emotional confusion, director Jamibeth Margolis and choreographer Randy Slovacek create a comic scene depicting a rocky flight, complete with air-sickness bags.)
These two succeed grandly elsewhere and "Plane" often zips across the stage gleefully. Scenic designer Jason Lee Courson uses projected animations, allowing for swift scene changes, and Elizabeth Payne's costumes are a model of period fluorescent flair.
Once Conn has streamlined "Plane Crazy," it just might have the right stuff to take off. I look forward to seeing its next incarnation.