Esmeralda Nazario and cast photo by Hector Sanchez Jr.
Flying Lessons, written and directed by Donald Rupe, with music and orchestrations by Cesar De La Rosa, music direction and orchestrations by Josh Ceballos, and additional orchestrations by Jason M. Bailey, is a charming musical that not only teaches a lot, but is quite moving.
Isabella (a wonderful Esmeralda Nazario), a young Latina and her single working mother Lydia (Desiree Montes), are at odds. Having to work double shifts to make ends meet, Bella is lacking an emotional connection with her mom and is angry and frustrated by it. Bella resents having to “pick up the slack” and is depressed over it. When Bella is assigned by her teacher (Briana Moten) the final project of her eighth-grade year: research a historical figure, she must write a paper about what made them great. Bella decides who to study when she is visited in a dream by two unlikely companions: Amelia Earhart (Megan Valle) and Frederick Douglass (Brandon Martin). As Bella writes her own ‘recipe for greatness’ she learns about herself, history, finally coming to and understanding and love for her own mother.
During the course of the show Bella learns how Earhart had to battle sexism in order to become a pilot and why she put up with it “In The Fun of It”. Douglass states all the ways he was told a person is not a person “Less Than Human,” and how being a slave kept people imprisoned and how he broke that mental bond.
Bella’s friends also play a crucial part in the show. One of the most touching songs is sung by Billy (Erick Perafan) a young “Different” boy. The girl who loves him Madison (Deanna Quintero), accepts that being friends is just as important. And Cynthia (Michelle Coben) gets her moment when explaining why Kim Kardashian is so important in “Like Me”. This cast is filled with multi-talented newcomers who have created three dimensional characters and keep us involved.
The direction by Mr Rupe and choreography by Kathleen Wessel is extremely well done, as is the sets by Sarah Allen.
Flying Lessons definitely has a life beyond NYMF. I can see this playing in schools all over the country. What is the most surprising and thrilling part of this piece is it is moving. The audience including myself and the producer next to me were in tears and touched by this heartwarming show that shows acceptance. Flying Lessons is well written and deserves to fly high.
NYMF: Flying Lessons, at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, Saturday, July 27 at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Sunday, July 28 at 5:00 p.m.