Combine the vocal sounds of Frank Sinatra, the king of sophisticated mellow sounds, the master of “cool,” with the creative energies of choreographer Twyla Tharp, queen of unique dance interpretations, and the result is an evening of masterful joy.
COME FLY AWAY was greeted on Broadway with tepid reviews. Taking note of the negatives, and building on the positives, the touring production is half an hour shorter, some songs were dropped, the intermission eliminated. Now, about 80 minutes long, it is tighter, less repetitive and holds the audience’s attention with the feeling that Sinatra is in the house.
The sound design gives the illusion that Sinatra is standing in the wings while the wonderful on-stage big band (reeds, trumpets, trombones, bass, drums and piano) supplement the fine signature recorded musical arrangements of the boss. No one sings Sinatra, the vocals are his! In fact, it’s so well done that it was almost expected that the man would appear on stage during the curtain call. Well, in fact, he does…the result of visual electronics. And the audience reaction was the same as if he had returned from the dead.
The setting is a night club. We watch as four couples flirt, conflict, fall in and out of love, while dancing to the crooner’s seductive vocals. The dancers move with ease, invading each other’s space, overlapping in vignettes, change and shed clothing to display their superbly toned bodies. The dance style is modern dance with ballet overtones, not ballroom movements. There are traditional balletic lifts, partner coupling, hand extensions, flowing moves on and off stage, coupled with modern dance, gymnastics, flips, jive, and lots of enthusiasm.
Don’t expect a story line. That isn’t part of this format. Tharp doesn’t usually tell stories. She shapes characters, each unique, who repeat their strongest dance abilities, keeping true to their designated form. As the show is fluid in casting, the lineup seen one night may not be what is seen the next. This gives a freshness to each performance.
On opening night Ramona Kelley and Christopher Vo danced as a cute young couple who shyly meet and by the end of the show, are in love. They were both superb, with Vo getting laughs for his awkward attempts to impress Kelley.
Ron Todorowski displayed strong abilities with body abandonment in his flips, cartwheels and gymnastic skills. Beautiful Meredith Miles displayed fine balletic dancing talent. Toned Stephen Hanna’s strong balletic skills, which was also highlighted in the musical BILLY ELLIOT, was well showcased.
The rest of the opening night lead dancers, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Tanairi Sade Vazquez and Anthony Burrell all displayed excellent dance skills. The corps was strong.
The on stage band, which supplemented the recorded music, was superb. Strong solos performances aided in the overall quality of the musical sounds.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you’re a Sinatra fan, you’ll have an evening of nostalgia with old blue eyes. If you’re a dance aficionado, you’ll experience an evening filled with the visual delights of Twyla Tharp. If you are a lover of musical theatre filled with a strong story line and message, this isn’t going to be your thing. Me? I really, really enjoyed myself.