Drew

Come Fly With Me (Come Fly Away)

42 posts in this topic

I was a bit underwhelmed by Tharp's "Come Fly with Me" when I saw it Thursday night. "Vegas-y" was my companion's comment; well, it IS Sinatra, but that does about sum it up. Perhaps not entirely. For a brief moment towards the end, when--to the strains of "My Way,"--the women came out in white gowns (as in Balanchine's Vienna Waltzes) and, with their partners, swooped across the stage in various asymmetrical patterns of lifts and dips cued unexpectedly to the music, it had something like the poetry of Tharp's early works.

The plot (such as it is) is a riff on a series of stereotypes -- gangsters, glamor girls, charming more-or-less innocents, plus the main character who is also the one black character-- a super-sexualized, at times screaming (literally) woman who gets beaten by her stalker boyfriend (or love-hate partner or whatever), crawls on the floor animalistically and enjoys lesbian sex. Presumably, none of this is unself-conscious (though I would not go so far as to say I found it ironic), but it didn't seem terribly interesting either as a riff "on" the stereotype. The "My Way" number was such a pleasure in part because its beauties seemed meant to sort of sweep the past away without quite forgetting it -- offering a formal idealization of what preceded. But I wish I had found the "past" in question more compelling to begin with...

I had not gone expecting a masterpiece, but rather thought to enjoy the show as a guilty pleasure, and at times I did--I like Sinatra--but for the guilty pleasure to really kick in the men would have had to generate more of the heat the choreography was, to say the least, telegraphing and I would have had to like the costumes more. To my eyes they looked more 'dance company budget' than 'Broadway budget' and the lingerie in Act II -- when people start undressing -- was not particularly fetching. Maybe that was the irony. Or maybe I just missed the irony. The dancers were very good, but I wasn't quite blown away by any of them and I feel I should have been.

I do recognize that Atlanta, where the show is now, counts as a try out and the show may be much better by the time it gets to New York. There is obviously a lot of talent on stage...

Edited to Add: Out of curiousity I just looked at some of the reviews; the critics so far like the show a lot.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for this review, Drew. I had mixed feelings about this project - obviously Sinatra's oeuvre is a better choice for Tharp (and theater) than Dylan, but what would she do with it?

Vegas-y" was my companion's comment; well, it IS Sinatra, but that does about sum it up. Perhaps not entirely. For a brief moment towards the end, when--to the strains of "My Way,"--the women came out in white gowns (as in Balanchine's Vienna Waltzes) and, with their partners, swooped across the stage in various asymmetrical patterns of lifts and dips cued unexpectedly to the music, it had something like the poetry of Tharp's early works.

There's the Sinatra of Vegas and the Sinatra we think of as an artist (some overlap, but not much) and in the past Tharp has worked well with both, but perhaps not here. As you note, however, tryouts are tryouts.

Share this post


Link to post

There is a casting notice for understudies for Tharp's new musical, which will be coming to Broadway in the Spring 2010. (Casting notice is on playbill.com, under "casting and jobs" link) The notice states that all of the dancers who originated their roles in the Alliance Theater production a few weeks ago will be returning to their roles in the broadway production. The understudy cast, according to the notice, is being guaranteed at least 2 performances per week. (I assume that the understudy cast will go on for the matinee days when there are 2 shows per day.) Anyway, great news. I can't wait to see this production.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for posting this, abatt. If you do see it, I hope you tell us about it!

Share this post


Link to post

This is from the NY Times:

"It’s been nearly 35 years since Frank Sinatra played the Great White Way, but Ol’ Blue Eyes is back: the singer’s music and voice will return to Broadway in a Twyla Tharp musical that its producers said on Monday will transfer to the Marquis Theater later this year. The musical, which is conceived, choreographed and directed by Ms. Tharp, was previously titled “Come Fly With Me” when it was presented at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta last fall, but will be called “Come Fly Away” for its Broadway run. (The show’s press representatives did not immediately offer an explanation for the name change, you dig?) Casting for “Come Fly Away” was not announced; it is to begin previews at the Marquis on March 1 and open on March 25."

Share this post


Link to post

This is a press release re Tharp's "Come Fly Away:

"Tony nominees Keith Roberts and John Selya, who starred in the Alliance Theatre world premiere of Twyla Tharp's Frank Sinatra-inspired dance musical Come Fly Away, will repeat their performances on Broadway.

Roberts and Selya, both veterans of Tharp's Movin' Out, will be joined by original principal dancers Alexander Brady, Rika Okamoto, Karine Plantadit, Matthew Dibble, Holley Farmer, Laura Mead and Charlie Neshyba-Hodges.

The Come Fly Away ensemble will feature Kristine Bendul, Colin Bradbury, Alexander Brady, Todd Burnsed, Jeremy Cox, Carolyn Doherty, Amanda Edge, Cody Green, Heather Hamilton, Laurie Kanyok, Meredith Miles, Marielys Molina, Eric Otto, Justin Peck, Joel Prouty, Ashley Tuttle and Ron Todorowski."

There are a lot of familiar names on this list!

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, abatt, for keeping this story updated.

So that's where Jeremy Cox has gone. I'm glad he has gotten such a high-profile gig.

I admit I wish Cox had remained in Miami -- and not just from an audience point of view. I think of having to dance six performances a week of the same choreography, week after week after week, and can't imagine what that would feel like for a dancer used to a richer and much more varied repertoire.

Share this post


Link to post
So that's where Jeremy Cox has gone. ... Six performances a week of the same choreography, week after week. I can't imagine what that would feel like for a dancer used to a much more varied and richer repertoire.
Eight, if you include matinees. :(

Broadway pays a lot more than a ballet company, so I understand the temptation. Of course, even in these days of not great job security, a one-year contract with a company can offer a more reliable income stream than a short-lived Broadway flop (not that I expect this one to flop -- at least not as quickly as Tharp's previous Broadway venture).

Share this post


Link to post

I understand that AGMA & Equity are fighting over the show. It had been AGMA but Equity is claiming it on Broadway. I believe the article I read said that the average salary was $3,800 per week.

Share this post


Link to post

Twyla Tharp's Come Fly Away opened on Broadway last night. Today's NY Times gave it a rave review. I read one other review (NY Post) which also gave the show an excellent review. I'm seeing the show in April. Can't wait!

Share this post


Link to post

It would be wonderful to hear from BT members in NYC who have had the opportunity to see this.

In the meantime: a mainly negative review from the dance perspective by Alistair Macaulay in the NY Times. (The theater reviewer -- quoted above -- gave it a rave.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/arts/dan....html?ref=dance

The dances are less sensational than sensationalist. How many times are women hoisted aloft in crotch-spreading lifts directly addressed at us? The duets keep saying not “You and I are in love/having an affair/going through problems” but something closer to pornography: “Take a look at what we two do together!” This is intimacy perverted into exhibitionism.
When Ms. Tharp was first tackling narrative and partnering, in works like the 1980 “Short Stories” (to songs by Supertramp and Bruce Springsteen), I remember following with my heart in my mouth. One of the special achievements of “Nine Sinatra Songs” was how many specifics of situation, character and relationship each number conveyed. And the inwardness of the male soliloquy in “Sinatra Suite” was another artistic feat. “Come Fly Away,” for all its intensity, is shallow by comparison. It recycles known effects rather than charts fresh emotions.
It's clear that the Times theater critic and dance critic have brought quite different perspectives to this show -- which is really rather interesting.

If one is on the Broadway beat, you may be talking to a different readership from someone approaching from a largely dance perspective. But "Come Fly Away" is a Broadway show that expresses what it has to say (whatever that is) in largely dance terms. It's a puzzlement.

Does it make sense that the two Times reviewers apparently "saw" such different shows? Or is sit possible that the Macaulay's distinction between "sensational" and "sensationalist" no longer has relevance in Broadway musicals?

Share this post


Link to post
It would be wonderful to hear from BT members in NYC who have had the opportunity to see this.

In the meantime: a mainly negative review from the dance perspective by Alistair Macaulay in the NY Times. (The theater reviewer -- quoted above -- gave it a rave.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/arts/dan....html?ref=dance

The dances are less sensational than sensationalist. How many times are women hoisted aloft in crotch-spreading lifts directly addressed at us? The duets keep saying not “You and I are in love/having an affair/going through problems” but something closer to pornography: “Take a look at what we two do together!” This is intimacy perverted into exhibitionism.
When Ms. Tharp was first tackling narrative and partnering, in works like the 1980 “Short Stories” (to songs by Supertramp and Bruce Springsteen), I remember following with my heart in my mouth. One of the special achievements of “Nine Sinatra Songs” was how many specifics of situation, character and relationship each number conveyed. And the inwardness of the male soliloquy in “Sinatra Suite” was another artistic feat. “Come Fly Away,” for all its intensity, is shallow by comparison. It recycles known effects rather than charts fresh emotions.
It's clear that the Times theater critic and dance critic have brought quite different perspectives to this show -- which is really rather interesting.

If one is on the Broadway beat, you may be talking to a different readership from someone approaching from a largely dance perspective. But "Come Fly Away" is a Broadway show that expresses what it has to say (whatever that is) in largely dance terms. It's a puzzlement.

Does it make sense that the two Times reviewers apparently "saw" such different shows? Or is sit possible that the Macaulay's distinction between "sensational" and "sensationalist" no longer has relevance in Broadway musicals?

It's definitely a difference of perspective. Isherwood writes from a theater critic's point of view and Macaulay from the dance/choreographic. I wonder how much of Tharp's choreography for other medium Isherwood has seen. And in the current sad state of dance on Broadway, "Come Fly Away" certainly stands out as well, different. For my taste (and I'm a Tharp fan), I have to agree with Macaulay. His view was the show I saw, not Isherwood's. No where did the choreography say anything about the characters. It was just one flash and trash step after the other. And no where did the movement reflect (let alone respect) the songs and singing of Sinatra. I am almost tempted to see a matinee performance where the second cast has a go at the choreography. (at those prices that's probably not going to happen). But maybe dancers other than the first cast would reveal something that is sorely missing from the first. Namely soul and heart. After about fifteen minutes, I lost interest in most of what they were doing and it became painful to watch all the grimacing and false smiles. I distain seeing flashy movement just for itself . Choreographing a jump that has no name, but twists the body and legs in the service of a "Whahoo" from the audience is false and selfish on the part of the choreographer. And the repetition of the lifts, turns and jumps became just mechanics after awhile. Macauley used the term "pornographic". I would use "cheesy". Sadly this is what so many in the audience will assume is good dancing. "So You Think You Can Dance"...eat your heart out! Tharp has you beat in spades!

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, mymsib, for your report. I love the following sentence especially:

Choreographing a jump that has no name, but twists the body and legs in the service of a "Whahoo" from the audience is false and selfish on the part of the choreographer.
We've all seen plenty of those moves in our time as dance-goers, but I've rarely heard them described so concisely.

Share this post


Link to post

I didn't see Susan Stroman's "Contact," but as an all-dance work that was presented in a mostly straight theater venue, I wonder if there was a similar disjunction in the reviews.

Share this post


Link to post

The NY Times, in its Arts Beat blog, is addressing the issue of why its two critics have such varied views of this show. Isherwood has posted some additional comments regarding why he admires this show.

By the way, with respect to Stroman's Contact, that show had a very developed "Book" or storyline in each of its segments (There were 3 segments, as I recall.) One of the main criticisms of Tharp's show is that a storyline is lacking or, at best, weak.

Share this post


Link to post

Joan Acocella in New Yorker gave it a very negative review. One quote "Never, apart from maybe the Sufi whirling dervishes, have I seen a show of such sameness."

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, vipa, for the Heads Up on the Acocella piece. Here's the link:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/danc...ancing_acocella

You are right; the article IS remarkably negative. Here's the conclusion:

Tharp is unashamedly ambitious commercially, and, as her great middle period was coming to an end, she decided that Broadway was where she belonged. Her two early shots, “When We Were Very Young” (1980) and “The Catherine Wheel” (1981), had limited runs. “Movin’ Out,” her first big Broadway venture, ran for two and a half years. But she also produced two major turkeys, the 1985 “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” She should give up on Broadway, not because she sometimes bombs (many good directors do) but because Broadway dance is inimical to her talents, and even to her values, which, in her best work, have to do with wit, spontaneity, and populism. The slung pelvis that you see on Broadway, the frozen grins, the women showing their panties, the men trying to look interested: she is willing to produce these things, but, because she knows better, they come out looking cheesier, phonier, than in the work of Broadway regulars.

The gap between theater reviews and dance reviews is getting bigger and bigger. Now THAT should generate some controversy. :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Thanks, vipa, for the Heads Up on the Acocella piece. Here's the link:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/danc...ancing_acocella

You are right; the article IS remarkably negative. Here's the conclusion:

Tharp is unashamedly ambitious commercially, and, as her great middle period was coming to an end, she decided that Broadway was where she belonged. Her two early shots, “When We Were Very Young” (1980) and “The Catherine Wheel” (1981), had limited runs. “Movin’ Out,” her first big Broadway venture, ran for two and a half years. But she also produced two major turkeys, the 1985 “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” She should give up on Broadway, not because she sometimes bombs (many good directors do) but because Broadway dance is inimical to her talents, and even to her values, which, in her best work, have to do with wit, spontaneity, and populism. The slung pelvis that you see on Broadway, the frozen grins, the women showing their panties, the men trying to look interested: she is willing to produce these things, but, because she knows better, they come out looking cheesier, phonier, than in the work of Broadway regulars.

The gap between theater reviews and dance reviews is getting bigger and bigger. Now THAT should generate some controversy. :wink:

Acocella take on the piece is devastating. But it echoes a lot of what Macaulay wrote. To a point it seems like a lot of what is presented on Broadway is just carefully feeding the audiences what the demographic input has insisted they want. It's pretty discouraging.....

Share this post


Link to post
Thanks, abatt, for keeping this story updated.

So that's where Jeremy Cox has gone. I'm glad he has gotten such a high-profile gig.

I admit I wish Cox had remained in Miami -- and not just from an audience point of view. I think of having to dance six performances a week of the same choreography, week after week after week, and can't imagine what that would feel like for a dancer used to a richer and much more varied repertoire.

A little late, as I just happened to find this news, but I agree with bart on this. I miss Cox too. He was such a great character, very energetic and charismatic...always a pleasure to watch.

Share this post


Link to post

The Arts Editor of the NY Times must have been channeling Ballet Talk. The latest article focuses on the divergence in views of the paper's two reviewers:

One Loves It. One Loathes It. "That's Life."

Charles Isherwood (representing Broadway):

I also think we disagree about the nature of the event. For me “Come Fly Away” is not intended to be about intimacy as much as it is about the performative aspects of romantic attachment, the roles that men and women play when they are courting each other in public. It takes place in a nightclub, after all. So in that sense I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what you call the show’s “exhibitionism.” It’s about the pas de deux as a public mating dance.

Alistair Macaulay (representing Dance):

Yes, I’m afraid we differ about the nature of this event. We also differ about the nature of what’s appropriate for Broadway. I don’t accept that entertainment and subtlety are opposites or that an artist need choose one rather than the other. Do you think Fred Astaire decided to abandon subtlety so as to be entertaining? I certainly don’t. Do you think ballet isn’t entertainment? George Balanchine would have disagreed. The same can even happen in the jukebox musical, a genre I’ve often enjoyed. (I’ve loved “Mamma Mia!” since its West End premiere.) Twyla Tharp more or less invented the jukebox ballet with “Deuce Coupe” (1973), which I adore. So it was fair to hope she’d be right for this show.

You think she does it well; I don’t.

An extended version of the "conversation" is on the Arts Beat Blog

Cristian, I look for Cox's name in each of the reviews but so far have not yet found it. All the dancers have been given "names," but some appear to be characters (although 2-dimensional, according to Acocella) while others may be primarily for background. Cox may be one of those. The leads are, apparently, all older dancers (3 of them in their 40s).

Share this post


Link to post

I'll see your Accocella and raise you a Jowitt :wink: Just to keep things interesting, there's a divergence of opinion among dance critics, too ... Here followeth the linkfest:

Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice - positive:

On Broadway, Twyla Tharp Gets a Kick out of Sinatra

To love Come Fly Away yourself, you have to accept it as a series of vignettes—brilliantly layered within an ensemble ambience—about couples without backstories meeting, making out, parting, and perhaps finding new sweethearts ... The greatest pleasure is the choreography that conveys the emotional flare-ups and elevates them beyond recognizable behavior (kissing, turning away, raising a hand in anger). The musical lilt and swoop and twist and spin of the dancing alters with the changing moods. Complicated maneuvers between partners can convey desire or love or rage—as in the terrific "That's Life," in which long-suffering Hank (the superb Keith Roberts) finally gives his date, the do-me party girl Kate (Karine Plantadit), the tough treatment she's maybe been asking for. A multiple pirouette can bespeak rapture or frustration.

Robert Johnson, The Star-Ledger - positive

Tharp Offers Thrilling Take on Romance Through Dance

Bodies streak or glide across the stage, relationships become tangled and straighten themselves out, and watching the dynamic cast is like injecting passion into a vein.

... Tharp dramatizes the trysts and misunderstandings of four principal couples employing her marvelously spontaneous dance style. Despite a wealth of intrigue, plot development is less important in “Come Fly Away” than characters and situations that seem timeless. With the lovers chasing each other and squabbling in a starry fantasy world that comes furnished with invisible cigarettes and cocktail trays, the show suggests a ballroom version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Tharp’s humanism is classic.

Sarah Kaufman and Robert Greskovic reviewed the fall 2009 Atlanta try-out , when the work was titled "Come Fly with Me."

Kaufman, The Washington Post - positive

When Tharp Meets Sinatra, She Does It Her Way

Because Tharp's language is movement, she shows us Sinatra's potency by using his songs to get her cast dancing as if it's the last night on Earth. In terms of sheer energy, you're unlikely to see anything like this outside of a chemical explosion -- the whizzing lifts, the carnal cuddling, the jumps that gnash at the air, translating the bravado and ache of Sinatra's vocals into a glamorous collision of dreams and reality.

Greskovic, The Wall Street Journal - positive

Where Tharp and Sinatra Shine

Ms. Tharp—who "conceived" the production "by special arrangement with the Frank Sinatra Family and Frank Sinatra Enterprises"—offers, as choreographer and director, an array of finely calibrated dancing, often shot through with daring and extreme physicality. It all finds motivation in memorable and, yes, familiar music connected to the seemingly evergreen Sinatra, who was born in 1915 and died in 1998. The mating of music and moves is a smooth one, with Ms. Tharp's dancemaking theatrically plugged into Sinatra's singing so that the one reflects the other to shining effect.

Here's Terry Teachout's (negative) review of the Broadway version for The Wall Street Journal. Teachout is the WSJ's theater critic - in this case, the theater critic / dance critic divergence is the mirror opposite of the NYT's (Although it should be kept in mind that Teachout and Grescovic didn't see the same show: one saw the out-of-town preview, the other the final Broadway production.)

A Masterpiece Made Manifest (Note that the review's title does not refer to "Come Fly Away," but rather to a revival of "The Glass Menagerie.")

... a good many people disagree with my largely unfavorable opinion of Ms. Tharp's work, so let me say now that if you like her stuff, you'll like "Come Fly Away," which is chock full of her signature moves (the women get flung around a lot). I find her choreography cluttered, and here as in "The Times They Are A-Changin'," I'm also struck by her inability or unwillingness to spin a sustained narrative. For all intents and purposes, "Come Fly Away" amounts to an evening-long suite of vignettes that have little in common beyond their setting. In ballet, that can work; on Broadway, it's risky in the extreme, and my guess is that most playgoers will find the results aimless.

Just as a reminder ...

Apollinaire Scherr's review for The Financial Times was positive: "Come Fly Away, Marquis Theatre, New York"

And yet Come Fly Away far surpasses Tharp’s other two Broadway shows because she has finally accepted what a song can do better than plot and character. In a seemingly casual arrangement of the most inventive dances she has created in years, the choreographer concentrates on metaphor, feeling and rhythm: poetry.

Perhaps to reassure the audience, the first act resorts to the usual Broadway tropes, but rendered with masterly precision. The eight leads don’t just strike a pose when they saunter one by one down a staircase, they freeze on the hippest beat of the hopping “Come Fly With Me” as if a flashbulb had gone off.

Tobi Tobias' review -- posted to her Arts Journal Daily blog "Seeing Things" -- was not: "One More for the Road"

The oddity of Come Fly's means of capturing Sinatra turns out to be the least of the show's difficulties. The brazen gaudiness of the whole affair is another, but that's show biz. The central flaw is that the audience is left to intuit a story or stories from hints in a continuum of some of the busiest dancing it has ever seen. If the show does have a plot (or even a point beyond the observation that love's tough), it's not all that clear.

We meet each of the four main couples in their relationships of the moment, but they soon split--through temperamental differences, quarrels, misunderstandings, or the cruel desire to try out an alternative lover. As if someone had yelled, "Change partners and dance!" the eight "characters," most of whom are given no more depth than paper dolls, are shuffled like a deck of cards. About half of them seem to get together again as the show moves toward its finale, but by that time--exhausted by the volatile coupling, the incursions of a feisty ensemble, and the merciless visual cacophony--I, for one, had lost track.

Edited to add a link to Robert Gottlieb's review for The New York Observer:

She’s Done It Her Way

Tharp has handled these musical interventions brilliantly, honoring Sinatra even as she encroaches on him. Yet though he dominates everything—at the end, his image is up there in lights—Come Fly Away is less “about” him than the earlier Sinatra ballets are. The subject of this show is show-dancing (too rarely slow show-dancing). It’s about Tharp pushing her dancers to the max. And it’s about her persuading her audience that a full evening of dance can hold them without a story as such—with only a loose situation to bind everything together.

Share this post


Link to post

Fascinating thread, very comprehensive. Oh dear, what divergence of tastes, I still think I'd like it as least as well as 'Mamma Mia', though. No accounting for tastes, but I've never seen any Tharp i was that crazy about.

Share this post


Link to post

Many thanks, Kathleen, for that wonderful compendium of reviews! I'm beginning to think that this is the time to recall that all saw: "People who like (or don't like) this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like (or don't like)."

Or ... possibly? ... :lol:

Share this post


Link to post