2001 – Flying High – ABOUT

Flying High

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 2001

Synopsis: The opera is set in a disused warehouse where a pop video is about to be made. The ambitions of the rock band among the riggers contrast sharply with the seen-it-all cynicism of the technicians, agents and others leading to arguments about the risks of stardom versus the security of the pay packet. When the star turn, Diva, walks out on her contract the line up at the final glittering awards ceremony is thrown wide open.

Composer Graham Preskett
Librettist John Kane
Music Director Philip Colman
Soloists Diva, Mickey King, Larry Breen, Morris Filch, Jerry Rooney, Steve, Loomer, Mitch the Twitch, Harry the Wheels, Dougie the Chemist, Shoulders, Abe the Accountant, Grace, Angel, Catering Manager, Dr Roberts, Bambi, The Usual Suspects (5)
Groups Showbiz Mothers, Kids, Technicians, Camera Crew, Wardrobe and Make-Up, Diva’s Dancers  
Orchestra Piano/Keyboards, Violin, Cello, Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Bass Guitar, Percussion  

Notes on Production: The world of pop music, the struggle for fame and the pitfalls of stardom are seen through the eyes of the backstage technicians without whom the stars of the music business would be nothing. FLYING HIGH’s storyline will appeal instantly to today’s teens. Some drug references.

FLYING HIGH is one of the more musically straightforward pieces in the W11 Opera repertoire. The original cast, as always local schoolchildren with varying levels of musical training, found the music easy to learn. Stylistically: popular musical comedy, witty, harmonies and part singing. A few male broken voices could be included.

Though originally produced in the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Flying High could easily be staged with a simpler, smaller set using a few easily sourced, moveable props. There is ample opportunity for imaginative and innovative choreography. Cast size: at least 40.

Age range: 9-18, with the “child stars” possibly played by younger children.

Running time 60 minutes.

Music and Video

Please visit the Video and Audio pages for clips from the production.


In the making of a pop video, a major conflict of interest causes a dramatic and unexpected outcome

Early one morning in a disused warehouse, a film crew is arriving to shoot the video for Everyone Has an Angel, the new single by rock star Diva. Erecting the set are five disgruntled teenagers, Dee, Sandi, Tibo, Kay and Jer. They have their own pop group, The Usual Suspects, and dream of being stars, until interrupted by Grace, Dee’s mother.

Steve, Diva’s former singing partner and boyfriend, arrives, looking for her. With his past of prison and drugs, Grace sees him as an example of a life built on dreams. The kids, unconvinced, launch into one of their numbers, Flying High. The Technicians enter, followed by Wardrobe, Make-up Staff and Camera Crew, all horrified by the cold warehouse (The Bacon Sarnie Song).

Brenda, a pushy stage mother, enters, dragging her precocious daughter Kylie for the audition. Kylie begins I’m a Star, as the stage fills with Stage Mothers and their offspring, all desperate to show off their talents. Mickey King, the famous record producer, enters with his entourage and Morris Filch, Diva’s agent. The mothers push their kids towards him, desperate for stardom, but Mickey warns them he hates kids (Keep Them Away From Mr King). As the mothers and kids are rushed off, Grace overhears a conversation: Mickey is furious that Diva is refusing to sing the new song, Everyone Has an Angel. They agree that the song is rubbish, but Morris promises he’ll talk Diva round, with the aid of a few pills. Diva arrives, announcing that she wants the Angel song cut. Mickey is adamant: ‘Jerry Rooney wrote this song and Jerry Rooney’s never wrong’. Diva acquiesces and goes to get in costume.

The world-famous film director Larry Breen arrives to audition the children and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes up he hires them all. The Wardrobe staff panic as they haven’t enough angel costumes. Unperturbed, Larry sends them to the nearest costume store: ‘Anything with wings will do’. The crew puts the finishing touches to the set and it blazes into life. Diva enters and again argues about the song with Mickey and Morris. Grace interrupts and tells Diva what they really think of it. Mickey tries to fire her, but Larry calms them all down.

The Dancers enter in their funky costumes, with the Wardrobe staff in a panic: ‘We did our very, very best’. Kylie heads up an unhappy troupe of Angels dressed in bizarre outfits – all that the wardrobe department could find at such short notice. They wait for Larry’s reaction… ‘It’s surreal. I love it!’ They launch into the number, but Diva stops: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t go on’. Mickey explodes this time and says this is her final chance. Morris tries to convince Diva, offering her a handful of pills. Steve enters and snatches the bottle from Morris.

Steve urges Diva to come away with him (There Was a Time), but Diva isn’t sure. She doesn’t want her heart broken again. Morris, Mickey and his men threaten Steve and Diva urges him to go before he gets hurt. As he runs off, Mickey, Morris and co. tell Diva that she should appreciate them (You Ought to Be Grateful).

A gold-plated ambulance pulls up, bringing the great songwriter Jerry Rooney, an ageing rock star, pushed on in a wheelchair. He tells the assembled company about the three things that drive him (Drugs, Sex and Rock’n’Roll). Mickey, Morris and co. round once more on Diva, but she is adamant: ‘I have to be me’. Steve returns to tell her ‘If you want to make a change, you gotta take a chance’. Everybody urges Diva to go. Steve throws her a helmet and they roar off on his motorbike.

Mickey is furious and threatens to sue them all, but Larry says he’ll finance the shoot himself. Grace points out that without Diva there’s nothing to shoot. Dee speaks up: ‘Actually, we’ve got a little rock group’. The Usual Suspects go into Flying High: everyone is stunned. Larry tells everyone to prepare for the take – for a video for Flying High. Jerry asks which song Diva refused to sing and, when told, confesses that even he thinks ‘it really sucks’.

The stage is transformed into the Brit Awards a year later. Larry introduces Diva and Steve, now reunited as a couple and as an act, to present the Best New Group Award. The winner is… The Usual Suspects. As they sing their big hit Flying High, the whole company joins in to remind us snot to lose heart until you’ve given everything you’ve got to offer: ‘if you keep on trying, soon you’ll be flying high’.