Sinatra And Tharp Their Way: 'Come Fly Away' Sexy And Exciting 'Come Fly Away' At Bushnell

 

By FRANK RIZZO

 

First Impressions: If you love dance you won't find a more sexy, joyous and exciting show than this touring version of choreographer Twyla Tharp's Broadway production, now presented as a one-act, non-stop, dialogue-free celebration of movement set to 28 songs using Frank Sinatra's vocals and accompanied by a red-hot, on-stage 14-piece band.

 

Essentially this is an extension of Tharp's previous dance imaginings set to Sinatra vocals but as a continuous evening-length show -- and with more Broadway pizazz than her uptown pieces. This is a show set to entertain with elegance, sensuality and a hell of a lot of fun. Once it started.

 

Meaning? The show began nearly a half-hour late due to "technical" problems with the sound system. A patient voice over the speakers briefly updating the audience on how things were going would have been better than watching a Bushnell exec on stage painfully riffing for time.

 

What's the show about? "Come Fly Away" follows four pairs of lovers as they fall in and out of love during the course of one evening at a swanky, bustling nightclub. But don't worry about following the story too closely. There really isn't one -- and the characters are fairly one-dimensional. You might not know who they are in any great detail but you will find visceral emotional connections with all of them as they embark on their long night's journey into dawn.

 

Though the narrative is thin, I was completely seduced and pulled into the woozy, libidinous nighttime world of mating rituals set to dance, propelled by the empowering music of Sinatra's love songs and a live band.

 

Oh, it's just dancing then. No. Not just. It's Twyla Tharp dancing, which means sensual, energetic and fun, in dance combinations that are unexpected but completely natural — and at times unnerving in their sense of daring. When was the last time you gasped at a performance -- or melted?

 

So where does Sinatra fit in? Listening to Sinatra, especially these pristine vocals from his master tapes, and you understand how they can evoke attitude which translates to movement and then to character that is beyond words.

 

There's the rejected suitor trying to toughen himself up for another try (just watch Matthew Stockwell Dibble steel himself back to the dance floor after a rejection in "Here's to the Losers" and you understand the power of positive singing), or the elegant cad (Stephen Hanna) who can dazzle whether he's hypnotizing his dames with effortless spins or simply standing still; or the tough bad boy (Anthony Burrell), who wears a mask for controlled machismo but also allows it to slip to reveal another more complex side of himself.

 

Though the men are the alpha characters in Sinatra Land, the women have their ways, too. There's the cool blonde who holds her pursuers at arm's length (Meredith Miles, and what arms -- and legs), the gal who can give as well as she gets (Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, fearless) or the unpredictable and tempestuous sizzler (Ioana Fitzgerald).

 

There's also romance that's more innocent as depicted by a somewhat shy and clumsy staffer at the club (Christopher Vo, a graceful, gymnastic charmer) and his sweetie (Ramona Kelley, adorable). When they dance to "Let's Fall in Love" "You Make Me Feel So Young" or "The Way You Look Tonight," it's bliss.

 

Who will like it?: Those who love modern dance -- especially the work of choreographer Tharp -- and/or the music of Frank Sinatra set to a real almost-big band sound.

 

Who won't?: Perhaps some Broadway series subscribers who are expecting more of a traditional book musical with a detailed story line and characters. If they need a point of reference this is more akin to Susan Stroman's Tony Award-winning "Contact," a dance entertainment also set in a nightclub.

 

For the kids? If they're interested in dance, by all means take the teens (though the dancing gets very racy at times with some or the clothes stripped off. (There is no nudity though.)

 

Twitter review in 140 characters or less: Brilliant dancing set to Sinatra music, so just lean back, relax and enjoy, enjoy.

 

Thoughts on leaving the parking lot? I was bothered at first by the generic title of the show. What does it mean anyway? Shouldn't it be "Come Fly With Me," after one of Sinatra's signature songs? But after seeing the show, I connected with the title. The show is an emotional flight that invites the audience along.

 

The Basics: Runs through Sunday. Running time is 80 minutes without an intermission. Information at http://www.bushnell.org or by calling the box office at 860-987-5900.


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