If you think you have had enough of musicals about children trying to reconnect with their dead fathers, think again. Newest in the flora of heart-tugging, family-friendly musicals is Free Solo, the story of climber John Robinson who fell to his death at age 43 and his daughter Hazel who hardly got to know him. When Hazel, who was 14 when her father died, stumbles upon her fathers old journal, she embarks on a journey through her own memories. Supported by the entries in the diary and clips from the news, she tries to figure out who her father was.
The production relies heavily on the three strong cast, Cecily Redman as Hazel Robinson, Esther Shanson as Jessica Robinson and Simone Leonardi as John Robinson, to move the story along but it is mostly narrated by Redman with clarity and high energy. Cecily Redman should be commended for her portrayal of Hazel throughout various stages in her life, as she starts out as a child and grows into a woman throughout the story. The writing is good and makes good use of audio clips and diary entries to move between various scenes. Every character has a complete arc and goes on a journey internally.
The music is simple, folk and rock inspired and joyously American. The numbers are lyrical and emotional with just the right amount of belt to showcase the talent of the cast. The set, designed by Sylvia Spyratou, is used by the cast in a creative manner which sets the story effectively in time and place. It is always delightful seeing actors play around with set and imagination. Now it is a table, now it is a tent, and then what happens. The cast do a fantastic job of keeping the audience engaged throughout but it is the combination of light, by Klay Brackney Wandelear, and sound design, by Billy Godfrey, that really pushes the show over the edge and plays a significant role in one of the most beautiful death scenes I have witnessed on stage. Free Solo is a breath of fresh air into the fringe musical scene and is well worth a watch.
Written by @lattelepjandi