New York City Theater
"Come Fly Away"
conceived, choreographed, and directed by Twyla Tharp
Marquis Theatre (Broadway)
Why is Twyla Tharp’s new Broadway show, “Come Fly Away,” so deeply disappointing? It is because we have every right to expect an innovative, jolting experience, given Tharp’s past track record, long history, and 2002 award-winning show “Movin’ Out,” set to the music and lyrics of Billy Joel. Moreover, Twarp has welded her work with that of another legend—Frank Sinatra. Sinatra vocals come across the sound waves, combined with a live on-stage orchestra and fifteen top dancers. Yet “Come Fly Away” does not fly, but plunges.
If one could remove Tharp’s name from the roster, expectations would be lowered and the show would come off as pleasantly entertaining. “We’ve seen better, we’ve seen worse,” as the expression goes. Twarp’s company of competent hoofers dance their hearts out, and the beat never let up. But as the dancers swirl about the floor—non-stop for two hours—they offer conventional, repetitious routines.
There is even a sort of story line. The difficulty with musical revues, per se, is that they usually lack a story line, and the viewer easily becomes bored. Here, Tharp’s effort to rectify that problem results in a tepid tale. Four couples meet, court, and bond in a series of on-again, off-again romances. There is the comic, bumbling couple (Charlie Neshyba-Hodges and Laura Mead), the sophisticated couple (John Selya and Holley Farmer), the passionately wild couple (Keith Roberts and Karine Plantadit), and an exuberant young fourth couple (Matthew Stockwell Dibble and Rika Okamoto). Distinctive personalities do emerge, however. The comic pair are occasionally amusing, but mostly amateurish in their routines, and the sophisticated couple offer a dull courtship despite impeccable dancing. Best of all is Dibble, who is arguably the best dancer in a fine company of peers. Every moment he takes center stage, the entire show experiences a much-needed lift.
Finally, despite its lackluster choreography, “Come Fly Away” manages to bring off a strong company ending. How can they fail, with Sinatra belting out “My Way” and “New York, New York” in the background? If only the remaining ninety percent of the show had been comparable!
- Irene Backalenick
Apr. 2, 2010