Ol' Blue Eyes is back in Twyla Tharp's new musical
When Twyla Tharp began work on “Come Fly With Me,” a new musical using Frank Sinatra’s songs to tell the story in dance of four couples who fall in and out of love, the good news was that she had full access to Ol' Blue Eyes’ catalog. But picking the right songs to advance the action was a huge challenge.
“This isn’t just a needle drop, in which you play Sinatra’s biggest hits,” said Tharp, director and choreographer of the musical now in previews at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. “You have to pick very carefully, and there are just so many songs.” More than 1,500 recordings, to be precise, in a career spanning seven decades.
The creative team, including musical director Sam Lutfiyya, agreed early on that “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” would be included, but they picked a little-known rehearsal track that Sinatra laid down for a TV special. “It has the same structure of the studio track, just him and a piano player,” he said. “But this new one fit our needs, it was a bit more earthy.”
The song list went through 24 revisions, and along the way some legendary tunes wound up on the cutting room floor. Among them was “How Insensitive,” Sinatra’s classic performance with Antonio Carlos Jobim. “You have to give up something,” said lead producer Nick Howey, “but Twyla came up with an outstanding list.”
Audiences may be surprised at the way some of Sinatra’s biggest songs are presented: There’s a playful eroticism to “You Make Me Feel So Young,” which uses a live track from Sinatra at the Sands Hotel. “That’s Life” will sound familiar, but Tharp’s interpretation in dance gives new meaning to the relentless, exhausting battle between the sexes.
-- Josh Getlin