Soaring high Musical life story straight from the Eagle’s mouth
TRUE story – when I was in my mid-teens, a couple of years before the Calgary Olympics, I got friendly with the manager of the bar where I did my underage drinking.
Suddenly there he was in the local paper, announcing his intention to become the British ski jumping champion.
In the article he said something like: the British record holder is a bloke called Eddie Edwards, but it’s not a long jump and I reckon I can beat it.
You’ve never heard of him and, in truth, even I’ve forgotten his surname.
Not only did Eddie Edwards (Michael to his mum) become famous as the cheery Cheltenham plasterer in big glasses and a baggy ski suit who somehow blagged his way onto the Olympic ski jump slopes, he was a very impressive athlete.
And now he’s a musical star - of sorts – in Fly Eddie Fly, a musical of his life at the Everyman.
That view of him as an embarrassment, as a failure, as a berk with a big chin is referenced in the play, which features a mixture of stage school kids, community theatre veterans and a few pros.
His early struggles, when he wanted to be a downhill racer, feature large – the lack of money, the lack of support, the blatant class prejudice.
There’s story to be told about the darker parts of Eddie’s life.
What it’s like to be dismissed and then mocked because you’re a plasterer’s son.
What it’s like to be feted, but as a figure of fun, then be ripped off and bankrupted.
What’s it’s like to dream big, get there, but not be quite good enough to have people give you credit.
It’s not avoided in Fly Eddie Fly, but the piece as a whole is played for laughs and is much more upbeat – how could it not with the frankly irrepressible Eddie in the cast?
He plays a sort of narrator figure with Nik Howden as ‘other Eddie’ doing the actual acting and singing as the hero. And he is perfectly cast.
There’s a lot to admire in the play written by Miranda Walker, with music by Michael Childs, adapted from a three-handed play Miranda wrote a few years back for the theatre’s studio.
Director Paul Milton likes to have fun with the form – Eddie interrupts, and does some direction with the fourth wall not so much as broken as demolished, and the full range of theatrical suspend-your-disbelief devices are employed.
The skiing is presented well, ski jumps from a huge platform are fun and there’s a beautifully-handled dive representing Eddie’s appearance on Splash! a few years back.
It could, frankly, do with a trim. The last 20 minutes of the first act dragged a little – showing too many episodes, at too great a length, of the whirlwind Eddie found himself in after his appearance on the hills at Calgary in 1988.
Either a quicker whirlwind of appearances or just one or two to represent the whole would have kept me, and some sitting around me, a little less restive.
But it’s a lot of fun – the songs are fine, the best being the quite affecting number Forever in the Stars sung by Becks Grant Jones as Eddie’s mother Janette.
The dance sequences are enthusiastic and bouncy, and there’s some decent gags.
And there’s Eddie. Who doesn’t love Eddie?
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Eddie Edwards at the Everyman