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Come Fly With Me (Come Fly Away)


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#16 sandik

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 10:03 PM

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.

#17 abatt

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 09:29 AM

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.

#18 vipa

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 10:22 AM

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."

#19 bart

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 03:02 PM

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

#20 richard53dog

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 05:28 PM

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

#21 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 09:02 PM

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.

#22 bart

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 03:37 AM

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).

#23 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 06:30 AM

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.



#24 papeetepatrick

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 09:33 AM

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.

#25 bart

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 11:53 AM

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:

#26 TOOTOO

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 12:18 PM

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).

Cox is a principal swing (first cast came from the Atlanta show). He is Marty the bartender on Wed and Sat matinees.

#27 canbelto

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Posted 02 April 2010 - 10:49 AM

I haven't seen "Come Fly With Me" but I think that maybe it's better to see the show without thinking of any of the Tharp's work for modern dance and ballet companies. If you do, you're probably likely to find the show recycled and trite.

#28 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 05 April 2010 - 04:36 AM

Apollinaire Scherr expands on her Financial Times review of "Come Fly Away" in a post over at her ArtsJournal blog, Foot in Mouth: Twyla Tharp's "Come Fly Away": subterranean homesick blues

She addresses the divergence of critical opinion about the work's merits, and offers a few tart words on the Macauley / Isherwood contretemps:

Both critics were at their worst, with Isherwood equivocating before realizing what he was up against and Macaulay resorting to the sort of surliness that sours debate.


She also amplifies her own assessment, and specifically addresses some of the main complaints about the work -- the perceived "flatness" of the characters, the lack of a storyline, and the busyness of the choreography.

Scherr frequently uses her blog to add an addendum to one of her FT reviews -- either to provide additional detail, mull over insights that she hadn't fully worked out before her FT deadline, or to address issues raised by the performance that wouldn't be appropriate for a review -- and her posts there are always worth a read.

#29 Helene

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Posted 05 April 2010 - 05:36 AM

This has become a discussion of the critics: their responses to the show and to one another.

Has anyone actually seen it?

#30 abatt

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Posted 14 April 2010 - 06:03 AM

I finally got a chance to see this show last night. I had mixed feelings about it, and for the most part I enjoyed the second half more than the first. I thought a lot of the choreography in the first act was simplistic and generic. Much of it could have been easily executed by a mediocre regional ballet company. I guess I'm so used to seeing bravura choreography that I have difficulty enjoying more simplisitc, less difficult choreorgraphy. I believe that Tharp's choices regarding the choreography were driven by the reality that thesse dancers must perform 6 times per week, and many of her lead performers are not youngsters. In particular, there were times that I thought Keith Roberts looked like he was nearly out of gas. The lack of a plot didn't bother me in the least. I prefer to think of the show as a series of dance vignettes. In my opinion, there was no need to even give these "characters" names in the playbill. I enjoyed the choregraphy more in the second act, which focused on pdds. For me, the standout dance performance of the evening was That's Life, wtth Roberts and Plandatit. I had seen this number, from Sinatra Suite, performed at ABT a few years ago. The ABT performances were polite and genteel, but never caught fire. There was plenty of fire last night in this brilliantly executed pdd by performers who thankfully understood how to convey the character of the dance. I thought Plandatit was quite wonderful, as was Holly Farmer. On balance, I thought the show was entertaining, but perhaps not for an avid dance aficianado. It was a pleasure to hear a live orchestra play the Sinatra songbook. The insertion of Take Five was bizarre. I would have been happier without the female vocalist; her vocals, in my opinion detracted from the songs. It is unfortunate that Tharp decided to pander to the lowest common denominator in the audience by having her dancers strip down to their underwear. The lowest point in the show was when Plandatit crawled across the stage on all fours. Ms. Tharp was seated on the aisle taking copious notes. I was seated in the orchestra, and numerous rows in the back in the center and on the sides were empty. The audience seemed to enjoy the show immensely, and people in my vicinity who seemed to be dance newbies were blown away by the choreography and the dancers.


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