Mile High – the Musical
Mike Hume and Terry Newman
This brand new musical about the competition between the staff of a budget airline and the rival front-runner in the competition to be Mediterranean Small Airline of the Year got an enthusiastic reception at its première from an audience determined to enjoy itself—just the house lights going down got a rapturous response—but its chances aren’t high in a competition for this year’s best musical.
At its centre are flight attendants Richenda—despite the exotic name a matter-of-fact young woman who has never known her dad—who wants to be an airline pilot and her male colleague Tyler whose aspirations go no higher than being a super trolley-dolly and dreams of getting a boy friend.
They work for Icarus Royal Airline (though in pre-publicity it’s been called both Illyria and Island R A—like most musicals this one has obviously seen a lot of rethinking). He has an eye on his counterpart Clinton of Fantasy Airlines, a much more glamorous outfit. She rather fancies their award-winning Captain Fantastico, a pocket-sized Lothario with a giant-sized ego, but he is already being claimed by Maroula her exotic equivalent with Fantasy.
As well as the rest of the cabin crew are a couple of passengers: a black-garbed Greek widow with her husband’s ashes in an urn on her lap and a strange little man who might just be the daddy Richenda has never known who's paying court to the Greek window.
Cristina Dohmen is exotically Hispanic as Maroula, Anne Smith makes a determined Greek widow and Andy Irvine gives Fantastico a Dudley Moore-like exuberance (and doubles the male passenger) but there is little in the script to help them build character.
Ralph Bogard, camply funny as Tyler, carries much of the show and Jessica Sherman as Richenda makes her seem real against a gallery of stereotypes and in her gentler numbers, when she doesn’t use the microphone that passes from singer to singer, I suspect makes some of the songs seem much original than they are. Alex Beaumont’s Clinton is a (slightly) less camp companion for Tyler and the rest of the cast really have to make up their own characters for the book is very thin.
Some of the pre-publicity suggested a trip round Mediterranean beaches but this is no Mamma Mia; it stays almost entirely on board or in the terminal. One scene seems to be at a resort but suddenly is back on board and in flight for the show’s moment of drama.
Direct Phil Wilmott has salvaged things by releasing the energy of the company and giving choreographer Thomas Michael Voss full reign to create some frantically synchronised group numbers that display their vitality and don’t demand a Nijinsky.
Designer Mike Lees provides a simple setting of airport-like banality adding a decorative dash on the floor with a colourful arc that hints at repetitive journeys, and he makes clever use of aisle food trolleys. Prav Menon-Johansson has wisely splashed most of her costume budget on some striking red uniforms, and a couple of shimmy shaking glitter numbers that lift the look in contrast to the greyness of the down-market carrier’s outfits.
Mile High is a light hearted-romp that can be enjoyed for the ebullience of the hard-working performers. Its songs are pleasant enough and sometimes funny with lines like “You don’t need brains when you are blonde” but not very memorable and lacking in emotion (and what is a song about “long haul” doing in a show about Mediterranean airlines).
Perhaps this was a case of trying to pack too much in; more involvement in the characters would pay dividends to give this body. At the moment it feels like a series of interwoven revue sketches.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton