Over the last decade, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen has been illustrated in various mediums, but “Fly” takes the saga to another level. With a cast of talented actors, an outstanding director and creative set design, viewers are transported to 1940s to witness the history-making experiences of the airmen.
From start to finish, the production at the Pasadena Playhouse was simply captivating. Playwrights Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan blended their unique story-telling skills to depict the myriad of challenges the airmen overcame that resulted in them being the most-requested and most-heralded bomber escorts of World War II.
Khan, who also directed the play, presented a compelling combination of dialogue and dance in conveying the story of four college-educated Blacks who are accepted into the U.S. Army’s Pilot Training Program. The prevailing opinion of the era was that African Americans were not mentally capable of flying planes. However, the Tuskegee Airmen, filled with unwavering disciple and determination, proved their critics wrong.
Not only did 994 African American men graduate from the training program, but they went on to fly more than 15,000 combat missions that earned them 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 744 Air Medals, 8 Purple Hearts and 14 Bronze Stars.
Actors Brooks Brantly, Desmond Newson, Damian Thompson and Terrell Wheeler were exceptional in their portrayals. Their ability to realistically interpret the differences between the men — even though they were united in a common cause to graduate as pilots — denies the myth that all Blacks are alike. The actors showed the pilots as four individuals with various backgrounds that shaped their courage and character.
Omar Edwards, an amazing dancer, assisted in mesmerizing the audience as he performed a series of intricate tap routines to dramatize the action and transition between scenes. The remaining cast members, Ross Cowan, Anthony J. Goes and Brandon Nagle, gave outstanding characterizations as well.
“Fly” is a memorable salute to the Tuskegee Airmen and theatergoers will not be disappointed in the 90-minute, fast-moving production. In his director’s notes, Khan said, “Our tribute, “Fly,” is for all the brave men and women who against all odds and forms of adversity, risked their lives in the skies above for the cause of our freedom and in pursuit of a personal excellence for which they will always be known.”
“Fly” runs until February 26 at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. Molino Avenue in Pasadena. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. For tickets, call (626) 356-7529 or visit pasadenaplayhouse.org.