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Come Fly With Me

a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Conceived by Twyla Tharp with the songs of Frank Sinatra

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 3551

SHOWING : September 15, 2009 - October 11, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Celebrating love and life, COME FLY WITH ME is a new musical that follows four couples falling in and out of love. The show shares the full spectrum of emotion we all know as “this thing called love.” Set in a crowded night-club the dance driven evening is sexy… athletic… passionate… and filled with optimism.

Tony Award winner Twyla Tharp’s direction and choreography blends the incomparable vocals of Frank Sinatra, an international company of 32, including 14 world class daredevil dancers, an on-stage mega-band and an unparalleled hit parade of song. This all-new production features sets by James Youmans (West Side Story), lighting by Donald Holder (The Lion King, Movin’ Out), and music supervision by Sam Lutfiyya (101 Dalmatians).

By special arrangement with Frank Sinatra Enterprises and The Sinatra Family, COME FLY WITH ME features original recorded “masters” of Frank Sinatra’s voice backed by the live on stage big band. The music combines newly discovered renditions of Sinatra’s voice, with signature arrangements (Count Basie, Nelsen Riddle, Quincy Jones et al) as well as brand new charts for this fresh innovative musical.

Remember that song…that dance…that special someone…that moment when you fell in love… and fell in love again. This is one night out you’ll never forget.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Weightless
by Dedalus
Thursday, October 1, 2009
4.0
The Alliance Theatre opens its new season with a razzle-dazzle ballet, “Come Fly with Me,” in which Twyla Tharp does her “Movin’ Out” thing with the songbook of Frank Sinatra. Taken by itself, it is a bravura achievement, brimming with youth and energy and talent, staged with all the spectacle we’ve come to expect from Alliance premieres. And it is another textbook example of why Twyla Tharp is probably the best choreographer and director of dance working today. But, with the too-recent memory of “Movin’ Out” still Chevy-ing through my mind, I’m afraid this effort comes across as a little too weightless.

“Come Fly with Me” (a song which, by the way, does not appear in the show) follows four nameless couples over the course of an evening. We have the “new love” couple (Laura Mead and Charlie Neshyba-Hodges) who meet shy and clumsy and exult in their new-found attraction and passion (and kudos to the dancers for seamlessly sliding pratfalls into their energetic movements). We have they “never-say-die” older couple (John Selya and an elegantly radiant Holley Farmer) who won’t let temptation come between them. We have the “roller-coaster couple” (a funky and funny Karine Plantadit and Keith Roberts) who fight, break-up, make-up, and break-up again with alarming regularity. And we have the fourth couple (Rika Okamoto and Matthew Dibble) who seem to be in a world of their own, interacting with the rest of the cast rarely, if at all. Alexander Brady joins them as the Maitre d’ and they are energetically supported by an eleven-person ensemble.

But, for my money, the real “star” of the show (Ms. Tharp notwithstanding) is the on-stage “Big Band,” especially vocalist Dee Daniels, lead trumpeter Joey Tartell (I think), and lead saxophonist (Jerry Dodgion) (again, I think – the program does not list the numbers in order or their soloists). These musicians occasionally upstaged the dancers and provided numerous flights of sound every bit as acrobatic as the dancers themselves. Special praise also needs to go to sound designer Peter McBoyle for seamlessly mixing in Frank Sinatra’s vocal tracks with the live band. It was literally impossible to tell that the instrumentation was live but the voice recorded. I am literally in awe of the skill involved in making that happen.

Although I thought I was familiar with the songs of Sinatra, I have to confess hearing a lot of new stuff here, and am disappointed the program chose to list them alphabetically, rather than in show order (with full dancer/musician credits attached). My understanding is that many of the vocal tracks were chosen for their rarity, so I would have liked to associate a particular title with a particular song. Still, there were some standout pieces. My favorites were “That’s Life” (with its wildly over-the-top break-up acrobatics of Ms. Plantadit and Mr. Roberts), whatever the “meet clumsy” number was in which Ms. Mead and Mr. Neshyba-Hodges trip and stumble over themselves trying to get “in step” with each other, the Act Two “hot-and-sexy” moment (again, whatever that song was) for raising the temperature above equatorial levels, and the climactic “My Way” in which the entire cast donned elegant white dresses and black dinner suits for a beautifully realized fantasy in the stars, which nicely coalesced into … well, why spoil it? In fact the entire lighting scheme made full use of the razzle-dazzle potential of the Alliance’s computerized system without ever once “upstaging” the dancers.

The choreography, as expected, exhibited Ms. Tharp’s penchant for “human sculptures,” organic group movements, acrobatic individual moments, and sudden synchronization. In this case, it also showed some very character-specific stylization while retaining her signature uniformities of technique. The “New Couple” were clumsy, the older couple were elegant, the wild couple were crude and passionate, and the fourth couple were always together. And when the full cast danced as one, they were truly a unit, truly a feast for the eyes and all the other senses. Not to put too blunt a point it, Ms. Tharp could choreograph the phone book and make it interesting (and probably sexy).

But, when all is said in done, the piece as a whole is lightweight – the couples do little more than show different aspects of love and passion and they end the evening pretty much where they started (“New Love” couple excepted, of course). Especially when compared with “Movin’ Out’s” decades-long span covering weighty matters like youth and war and love and marriage and death and addiction and passion and dance. Simple Romance over one evening does not give nearly the same opportunities for wide-ranging emotion and pinball happenstance. With my expectations so firmly corrupted by “Movin’ Out,” I came for a roller-coaster ride, but was only allowed the carousel.

Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but still no roller-coaster.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Too Much Orchestra, Too Little SInatra by playgoer
"Come Fly with Me" does, indeed, appear in the show, but only as an orchestral fragment.

As I recall, the Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields "Pick Yourself Up" was the "meet-cute" number.

I felt the show suffered from an imbalance in the percentage of Sinatra to big band. To me, act one fell apart when Dee Daniels sang the entire "Makin' Whoopee" to choreography of uncertain intent, followed by a finale that was all big band. Sinatra had suddenly disappeared from the show.

The steamy orchestral version of "Makin' Whoopee" in act two worked better, I thought.

I felt the costumes could have been better. Karine Plantadit's dress was so short, her white underpants were showing entirely too much during lifts. The elegant Holley Farmer entered in a stole/boa thing that looked ratty from the balcony and hung like a limp, oversized noodle. It was only in the final section of the show that the cast appeared in the elegant eveningwear one associates with Sinatra.

I was disappointed in the unison dancing. It always seemed to be a little off when the ensemble joined in. A blonde female dancer tended to be half a beat ahead of the others. When the movements were echoed, but not unison, the effect was much more satisfying.

As for the volume, I found the big band too loud for my sensitive ears, but not to the point of constant pain.


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