Last month on the way back from our tour in the northwest, I had the pleasure of stopping in San Francisco to catch the last staging of Byron Au Yong’s Stuck Elevator. In short, I loved it.
It was a relatively large production and part of me worried that Byron’s vision and the avant-garde music would take a beating. But my first impression: yay for large-production staging! The musical tells the true story of a food delivery person trapped in an elevator for 81 hours. How does one stage a whole story that takes place in an elevator?! The answer: A wall-less steel frame elevator car suspended center-stage with a moveable floor and ceiling, fly-in elevator doors, and projections of a live-feed overhead surveillance camera on the back wall. It was really artistic. In less capable hands, the play’s most interesting staging moments would be moments of escape from the elevator, during a flashback scene when we’re free to leave the space. But the open-walled elevator, the camera work, the changing heights of the floor and ceiling made the elevator itself the hero of the staging.
Byron’s music was just my preferred balance of quirky and catchy. The last piece was particularly moving for me, and provided a bit of satisfaction that the story could not (more on that in a moment). The performers voices were great and save for a few spots, the music was able to handle the hard task of carrying the story and being musical. In other musicals, I often feel the lyrics are burdened with the telling of the story.
The play had more levity than I was expecting. Although I might prefer a darker overall tone, I didn’t mind the comedy. I was surprised how much I liked the silly “Orange Beef” scene. It felt somehow “refined”, with polished timing, interesting music, and clever staging. I laughed out loud a number of times during the show.
I really, really liked the end of the story; the uneventful opening of the doors, without rescue personnel to recognize and give sympathy to Guang. I walked away thinking, “Thank goodness that amazing experience has been captured in ‘Stuck Elevator’.” Thank you for capturing this, Byron!