Saturday, August 7, 2010

Broadway: Come Fly Away

Last night, we saw Come Fly Away at the Marquis Theatre, and it was wonderful. Conceived, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp and with recorded vocals by Frank Sinatra, it is a music, song and dance extravaganza paying homage to Ol' Blue Eyes with some amazing choreography by Twyla Tharp.

Twyla Tharp’s choreography is incredible, requiring of the show’s dancers a level of balletic grace, athleticism and gymnastic skill, seemingly beyond normal human ability to execute – and yet, without exception, every member of the troupe was up to the task. If I had to single out anyone for special praise, it would be the comic couple Laura Mead (Betsy) and Charlie Neshyba-Hodges (Marty) and the sexy Laurie Kanyok (Kate) who filled in for Karine Plantadit on the evening we saw the show. (Amazingly, Ms. Kanyok usually dances an entirely different role, that of Babe, in matinee performances.) (My singling out Ms. Mead, Mr. Neshyba-Hodges, and Ms. Kanyok for special accolades is not meant to disparage any of the other performances, all of which were absolutely first-rate.)

The show consists of more than thirty musical numbers, all set in a 1940s style bar-nightclub and danced to the recorded music of many of Frank Sinatra’s classic songs including “Body and Soul,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,””Witchcraft,” “Makin’ Whoopee,” “Just Friends,” “One For My Baby,” and dozens more, culminating, as you might have guessed, with “My Way” and “New York, New York.” Sinatra’s recorded vocals are also supplemented by wonderful live musical renditions of some of his tunes by Hilary Gardner, the evening’s Featured Vocalist, sometimes as solos and sometimes as duets with Sinatra. Ms. Tharp’s genius is reflected in the manner in which she has seamlessly married Sinatra’s recorded music and Ms. Gardner’s live renditions and then integrated those vocals equally seamlessly with her dances.

The Come Fly Away Band, conducted by Russ Kassoff, is also deserving of considerable praise. Several of the brass soloists were truly outstanding.

One caveat: despite everything I’ve said, not everyone will be as enthusiastic about this show as I am. The show has no plot, no real structure and no dialogue and those who insist that a “Broadway Musical” must have those attributes may be disappointed and feel shortchanged. But if you go to this show not expecting a traditional “Broadway Musical” but rather an exciting musical event, a great song and dance entertainment, if you will, then I think you’ll agree that this is simply one fine show. And that goes for everyone, “seniors” and “juniors” alike - although if you are of an age to recall “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” you will probably enjoy the experience even more.

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