Arrow-right Camera


Noted choreographer pumps excitement into ‘Come Fly Away’

Thu., Nov. 17, 2011

Best of Broadway’s “Come Fly Away” opens tonight at INB. (Courtesy of Joan Marcus)
Best of Broadway’s “Come Fly Away” opens tonight at INB. (Courtesy of Joan Marcus)

The Chairman of the Board is gone.

Ol’ Blue Eyes has departed.

Yet The Voice will be vividly present in “Come Fly Away” at the INB Performing Arts Center.

Frank Sinatra’s recorded voice will be blended with music by a live 16-piece band for every song in this 2010 hit Broadway show on national tour. You’ll hear many of his classic tunes: “Luck Be a Lady,” “Witchcraft,” “One for My Baby,” “That’s Life” and “My Way,” to name just a few.

Yet if the Broadway reviews are any indication, The Voice is not the only genius behind “Come Fly Away.” The other is Twyla Tharp, the legendary choreographer who conceived, choreographed and directed this “dazzling” and “eye-popping” (in the words of The New York Times) show.

The entire story – about the romantic entanglements of four couples – is told entirely through Tharp’s choreography. No dialogue.

“The way she directs and choreographs, you learn the choreography just as you would the dialogue,” said Ron Todorowski, who plays the role of Marty.

The dancers then proceed to “say” what the characters need to say to one another through movement, gesture and nuance. With a little help, of course, from those classic song lyrics.

It’s not your typical Broadway musical, but there is a precedent. Tharp is the same choreographer-director who created the hit Billy Joel musical, “Movin’ Out,” which was also told entirely through dance.

Those who saw the national tour of “Movin’ Out” in Spokane in 2007 learned that a nondialogue musical takes some getting used to, but in the end, it’s a dazzling, exhilarating and moving way to tell a story.

The story in “Come Fly Away” is about four different couples thrown together on one night.

“It takes place in one evening in a nightclub,” said Todorowski, who was a member of the original Broadway cast. “The focus is on four relationships. Some couples walk in together – and do not end up together.”

Each relationship represents a particular kind of relationship, including young, innocent love and the kind of love that’s no good for either party.

The lyrics of Sinatra songs – written by great lyricists such as Sammy Cahn, Ira Gershwin, and Cole Porter – are particularly suited to telling stories of romance. They also lend themselves to some big, splashy, athletic production numbers.

“The finale is ‘My Way,’ ” Todorowski said. “The entire company rallies together. I’ve been doing the show for almost two years and I still get emotional doing it and watching it.”

The show has a bit of a “Mad Men” vibe – inevitable with Sinatra songs – but the time and place are left deliberately ambiguous.

“The costumes are definitely classic – but in a modern way, too,” Todorowski said. “Tharp wanted to play with both old and new.”

The show might also bring to mind another recent TV phenomenon: dance “reality” shows such as “Dancing With the Stars.”

“Her choreography is classic, but still edgy enough for young people who watch all of these TV dance shows,” Todorowski said. “Our show demonstrates such a great, professional, example of dance artistry.”

Audiences and critics have more or less agreed. The New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay called it “overwrought” and “sensationalist,” but that was more than balanced by a rave review from Times theater critic Christopher Isherwood, who called it “a major new work of pop dance theater.”

Click here to comment on this story »