Chicago Theatre Review
Blending Old Blue Eyes and Back Flips
By Lazlo Collins
With the first notes of the show sending an instant nostalgic swoon through the audience, “Come Fly Away” was off and dancing with signature Sinatra songs.
This dance and music piece ran on Broadway from March through Sept. in 2011. It was conceived, choreographed, and directed by Twyla Tharp. The one Tony, two Emmy, Kennedy Center Honored Ms.
Tharp is no stranger to the dance/musical genre. In her 2002 “Movin’ Out” dance adventure, she used Billy Joel as her muse.
This time around, Frank Sinatra sings his classics, while the dancers tell the story of four couples who fall in and out of love at a swanky nightclub.
With the opening number of “Stardust” finding us with the first of our star crossed lovers, the black scrim rises to reveal a 13 piece band. The band plays just in back, and upstage of the dancing space. A shiny bar, sleek staircase, and a few well-placed tables complete the nightclub scene. Amid the sparkle curtain background, the musicians are always on the stage moving our dancers to their next tableau.
I have to say that many times during the show; I kept looking for the singer himself. Of course, I know Frank Sinatra has been gone from popular society in physical form for a while, but you wouldn’t know it from the head bobbing and sighs from the audience whenever a familiar tune began to play. Some of the hits to be heard included: “Fly Me to the Moon”, “That’s Life”, “One for My Baby”, and “My Way”.
With digital Frank crooning and the band firmly in place, the dancers were ready to “face the music and dance.” The principle dances in order of appearance were, Mallauri Esquibel, Ron Todorowski, John Selya, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Marielys Molina, Anthony Burrell, Matthew Stockwell Dibble and Meredith Miles. Each dancing couple projected the story of flirtation, romance, sex and love lost with a physical intensity that made you sit up and take notice. I enjoyed the diversity of dancing approaches from each couple. The Twyla Tharp style is unmistakable; with its athletic leaps and arm contortions. Her choreography can be so bold and physical. Some of the lifts, with their twists and turns, look like complex puzzles between to lovers. The ensemble dancers are equal in there expert execution of the peripheral characters, providing the audience some of the more synchronized choreography.
The lighting and sound are two, well planned and executed elements that are extremely important to the show and do not disappoint. The mood lighting is superb during the more intimate dances. I know the stars aligning to present Mr. Sinatra’s image at the “New York, New York” finale is corny, but I loved it. I think the audience did too. It connected the image of the man back to the voice.
“Come Fly Away” is a beautiful tribute to the Sinatra songs you love, with breathtaking dancing. The pre-show check list should have you interested in the love of modern dance OR the music of Frank Sinatra; but not necessarily both. The show is 80 minutes long with no intermission. The length of time is perfect for enjoying the show without longing for a more comfortable seat, or the urge to change the music on your iPod.