In this dazzling new dance musical, which opened Thursday night at the Marquis Theater, Ms. Tharp deploys a stage full of brilliant performers to heighten the theatrical allure of ballroom dance, complementing the immortal appeal of Sinatra’s singing with movement that captures the underlying emotional tensions in it. The yearning to connect and the impulse toward flight — those contradictory verities of romantic entanglement — take sharp visceral form in Ms. Tharp’s fast, flashing, remarkably intricate dances.
COME FLY AWAY Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Come Fly Away on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Come Fly Away including the New York Times and More...
There's an intense physicality to Tharp's choreography, not to mention a delight in show-biz razzle-dazzle, and both qualities are present in the dancers whose affairs of the heart are examined with astonishing theatricality. The eight marvelous leads all have distinct personalities. Right from the start, you know they are performers to be reckoned with as they take to the floor in a swank nightclub setting designed by James Youmans.
After hitting a home run with Billy Joel ("Movin' Out") and striking out with Bob Dylan ("The Times They Are A-Changin' "), Twyla Tharp is back on her A game, this time with Frank Sinatra as a collaborator. "Come Fly Away," her tribute to the classic romanticism of one of the 20th century's greatest pop stylists, is a jazz, a gas, a cuckoo-cuckoo, ring-a-ding fling, man! There's not much of a plot, but I didn't miss one as 15 sexy, athletic dancers coupled and uncoupled to the Chairman of the Board's recorded voice combined with a rich live orchestra and augmented by the sweet crooning of featured vocalist Hilary Gardner. Kudos to sound designer Peter McBoyle for making it seem as if Sinatra were still alive and duetting with Gardner.
Fly me to the moon Let me play among the stars Let me see what spring is like On Jupiter and Mars Bart Howard's words are as good as any to conjure the euphoric, elating spirit of Twyla Tharp's newest contribution to Broadway. Come Fly Away invites its audience to do just that, and then delivers: it's a joyous, beauteous, magic-carpet ride of a musical, celebrating the rhythms of love and the human body. If spring on Jupiter is anything like this, I want to go there for my next vacation.
But if you accept this show as a populist ballet — Who deserves a populist ballet more than Frank? — you could find yourself entranced. I did. Tharp's achievement here, and it is a brilliant achievement, is to catch, in strident, fearful dance, that sense of an artist at once temporal and immortal.
Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away is not just the best date show on Broadway; it’s a bit like being on a great date yourself. First you’re in a retro nightclub, soaking in a bubbly bath of dance, romance and classic Frank Sinatra tunes; and then…bang! Things get wild. If last summer’s Burn the Floor was the Terpsichorean equivalent of pornography—all flash and thrust and money moves—Come Fly Away gets at its erotics more genuinely, charged by Tharp’s electrified ballet.
Conceived, choreographed and directed with characteristic dynamism by Twyla Tharp, this homage features the spine-tingling arrangements of Sinatra's best-loved recordings, zestfully revived by an expert live band. Tharp's dancers, too — playing couples who grapple with that tender trap called love — mix technical prowess with a visceral punch that can be as playful as it is poignant.
They sweep down the stairs into the sleek but cozy deco club with the virtuoso big-band orchestra. Some come in couples, some alone. They've all dressed up for something slinky and maybe something special to happen as they get tossed and flipped and changed by an evening of Frank Sinatra and Twyla Tharp. And special it definitely is. "Come Fly Away," Tharp's dangerously gorgeous, wordless dance adventure, asks audiences to put aside the usual expectations of plot and to follow the delicious and foolish complexities of four relationships through exhilarating, scary-smart movement
Even a mediocre Frank Sinatra song—if there is such a thing—needs no adornment. If it’s not such a good idea to go around dancing about architecture, isn’t dancing about Sinatra just as bad a sin? It should be. But there’s nothing superfluous about Come Fly Away, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp, a show that teases new secrets out of songs many of us feel we already know intimately—suddenly, it seems as if there have always been dances inside “Moonlight Becomes You” and “Summer Wind,” crying to get out.
Tharp's choreography is consistently striking and inventive, taking a more abstract, sensual tone in the second act, when the performers shed a good deal of their clothing. But despite the sensational dancing on display, the show inevitably loses impact over the course of its two-hour running time, though the inevitable finale of "New York, New York" manages to end things on a properly buoyant note.
The dancers are attractive, personable and expert. Sturdy John Selya is the swinger captivated by Holley Farmer's red-headed coquette in a blue dress. A nimble Charlie Neshyba-Hodges and demure Laura Mead cavort through several cute turns. Karine Platadit is the Amazonian vamp who slays a brooding Keith Roberts and Latin lover Matthew Stockwell Dibble, among others. Their energy is high and they really heat up the joint. (An alternate cast of principals including American Ballet Theatre star Ashley Tuttle perform the Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Good thing they're all so hot since "Come Fly Away" otherwise registers as a rather hazy narrative hitched to Sinatra's disembodied vocals and Tharp's energetic dances. It's got flash but no heart.
Tharp doesn't illustrate the lyrics, going instead for mood inspired by the music itself. The upside is that this avoids heavy-handed (or is that heavy-footed?) mimicry. Many of the most compelling moments occur when seduction is coated in ferocity, as in "That's Life," which feels true to Sinatra's less savory side. The downside is that, after a while, repetitiveness seeps in. Plantadit, for instance, is a force of nature, but after seeing her roar her way through yet another number, you start hoping she'd just chill a bit.
Tharp’s "book" for "Come Fly Away," if you could call it that, isn’t nearly as ambitious. Tied together by the thinnest thread, the disparate songs illustrate basic emotions experienced by four couples in a nightclub setting. Though the individual numbers are thrilling and brilliantly executed, the total experience is less engaging than one would expect.
The unceasingly creative force of nature called Twyla Tharp returns to town importuning audiences to "Come Fly Away," but her third Broadway dance revue only intermittently gets off the ground. This despite an impressive dance corps, a handsome production, a fine swing band and Ol' Blue Eyes croonin' away from limboland. Sinatra's seductive voice and Tharp's sexy moves are well matched, building to some impressively climactic peaks. General audiences, though, might well run out of stamina before the dancers do.
Because the nine main dancers are remarkable -- the women extremely “ballon” (i.e., floating on air) and the men robustly intense (a double tour en l’air is child’s play to them) -- one can live with a certain amount of repetitiousness. We are duly tickled, fascinated and stunned by what we see, but almost never moved, for excitement is not tantamount to beauty. With Balanchine, say, the music dictates the choreography; with Tharp, the choreography lords it over the music.
Twyla Tharp racked up a major disaster three seasons ago with "The Times They Are A-Changin'," one of the lamest jukebox musicals ever to stagger onto Broadway. Not surprisingly, she's playing it very, very safe this time around: "Come Fly Away" is a love-in-a-nightclub fantasy set to the ever-popular music of Frank Sinatra, whose recordings have previously accompanied three of Ms. Tharp's ballets. The songs are familiar, the dancers are pretty, the set is fancy and the band is hot. All that's missing from this recipe for success are a star and a few memorable onstage events.
Unless you're a BIG fan of the Chairman of the Board and ballet-infused modern dance, Tharp's latest can be as tedious as waiting on a tarmac. Which is strange, since it's nearly constantly in motion. The problem isn't misconception. It's that there's no concept at all, no narrative and, hence, no emotional payoff. There's the slenderest male-versus-female tension. Frankly, you'd get the same plot — and characters — at a city dog run: competitive alpha males, flirty poodles, an overanimated runt and various docile lapdogs.
"Come Fly Away," Twyla Tharp's new dance musical inspired by the vocal recordings and nightclub style of Frank Sinatra, would probably make ideal cruise ship entertainment. But if you are looking for an engaging story and not simply an overproduced, two-hour dance recital, you had better look elsewhere.