When Utah Valley University’s Chris Meek asked director and choreographer Jeff Whiting in New York a few months ago if he had any new shows that might be of interest for the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts to develop, “Fly More Than You Fall” came quickly to mind.
“It’s an amazing, powerful show,” Whiting said. “That night, I sent him the script and some demos of some of the music. I think he was on a flight and when he landed on the flight, he said, ‘I love this. Let’s make this happen.’ “
UVU is now preparing to debut the musical in a pre-Broadway production set to open Thursday starring local singer Lexi Walker.
“We knew there was so much talent here in Utah, and this cast has just been unbelievably so good to help bring light into the show,” Whiting said. “It’s been really exciting.”
Walker plays Malia, a 14-year-old girl who turns to writing as a creative outlet to cope with the news of her mother’s tragic diagnosis. The performer said taking on the lead role has been “a dream come true.”
“She’s bright and she’s anxious to learn about the world outside of her small town in Indiana, and I liked being able to kind of bring my own experiences or my own perspective into her experience,” Walker said. “She’s a beautiful person, and I’m glad that I get to portray her.”
Book writer and co-lyricist Eric Holmes said the story of “Fly More Than You Fall” is based on his and music composer and co-lyricist Nat Zegree’s experiences losing parents when they were very young.
“It evolved out of this weird mix of our love for kind of a Disneyesque fantasy story that we’ve always wanted to write and explaining what it was like to lose a parent so young in the hopes that someone who is going through what we went through at our ages, in high school or younger, can come and see it and feel that they’re not alone and to feel like they too will survive it and come out stronger,” Holmes said.
The show’s creators said the production interweaves fantasy elements with reality, giving the best of both worlds for people who go to the theater to relate and those who go to the theater to escape.
“It is visually stunning what we’re working on right now, but at the same time, we just did a run I think last week of the whole show up in a studio with zero props, nothing, no costumes,” Walker said. “Everyone was crying in the cast because it’s such a beautiful story that none of that is necessary, yet the wonderful visuals that accompany it sure are the cherry on top.”
The score also incorporates a variety of musical styles and genres, according to Zegree.
“With this show, you do find yourself kind of living in that world of, ‘Oh yeah, this is a song that I could hear on a normal day,’ and then the next song is a song that you could only hear in a magical kingdom far away where animals speak,” Zegree said. “There’s something about that that kind of takes you on this whimsical journey while still realizing that your feet are still on the ground.”
“It’s everything because when you’re going through grief, you feel everything, so we decided to put everything into it,” Holmes added.
Whiting said the group is grateful to UVU and the staff at the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts for allowing them the opportunity to fully produce the show.
“We’re learning so much about the piece and how it works as we’re getting ready to take our next steps towards a Broadway production,” Whiting said.