Twyla Tharp's ode to Sinatra, 'Come Fly Away,' on Broadway: What did the critics think?
Tharp conceived, choreographed and directed the dance-centric musical, which debuted at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in 2009. (It was then called "Come Fly With Me.")
The show follows four couples' romantic entanglements during one night at a crowded club, set to the songs of the super-suave Sinatra, whose recordings are complemented by an onstage band and a female vocalist.
Tharp won a Tony for her 2001 hit "Movin' Out," based on the music of Billy Joel, but her 2006 Bob Dylan show, "The Times They Are A-Changin,' " flopped.
How did she do in her latest visit to the Great White Way? It looks like a split decision.
Charles Isherwood of the New York Times called this a "dazzling new dance musical." Tharp, he said, "deploys a stage full of brilliant performers to heighten the theatrical allure of ballroom dance, complementing the immortal appeal of Sinatra’s singing with movement that captures the underlying emotional tensions in it."
USA Today's Elysa Gardner wrote: "Conceived, choreographed and directed with characteristic dynamism by Twyla Tharp, this homage features the spine-tingling arrangements of Sinatra's best-loved recordings, zestfully revived by an expert live band. Tharp's dancers, too — playing couples who grapple with that tender trap called love — mix technical prowess with a visceral punch that can be as playful as it is poignant."
Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press said: "There's an intense physicality to Tharp's choreography, not to mention a delight in show-biz razzle-dazzle, and both qualities are present in the dancers whose affairs of the heart are examined with astonishing theatricality. The eight marvelous leads all have distinct personalities. Right from the start, you know they are performers to be reckoned with..."
The Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout was not as impressed: "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."
And Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News noted: "Frank Sinatra's singing oozes effortless cool. Twyla Tharp's dancing reeks of sweaty showmanship. Combined, it's a pair of two left feet, and that's a shaky foundation for the choreographer-director's new Broadway brainchild, 'Come Fly Away.'"
-- Karen Wada
Photo: Keith Roberts and Karine Plantadit in Twyla Tharp's "Come Fly Away" at the Marquis Theatre. Credit: Associated Press / The Hartman Group, Joan Marcus)