"Old blue eyes would have dug this show,” I whispered to my husband the other night at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The much anticipated Twyla Tharp conception musical Come Fly Away has made its way to Orange County and will be in town through February 5. It is a show that attracts a variety of patrons, ranging from lovers of Frank Sinatra, young and old, and dance enthusiasts of both genders. We witnessed it all in the foyer; it was refreshing to see some younger faces at the Center, with a mixture of hipsters and a representation from our collective generations.
Let me give you the short list of our cast of characters. First and foremost, we have the legendary voice of Frank Sinatra (original digital engineering by Sam Lutfiyya and Dave Pierce and sound design by Peter McBoyle) to a crisp solo, supported by an amazing onstage big band. Conducted beautifully by Rob Cookman, this group takes center stage and their accompaniment is the thread that weaves this dance soirée together. The arrangements pay homage to the great conductors Sinatra worked with, from Nelson Riddle to Quincy Jones, but this uber-talented group adds the necessary zing to keep you jazzed up during this intermission-free performance.
The free-form story of four couples dancing their way in and out of love is set in a timeless dance club, designed by veteran scenic designer James Youmans. Although the characters are named in the program, it is a bit of a challenge to determine which one is which, and it really isn’t that important. Better to sit up or sit back and enjoy the intricate, lovely, graceful, athletic, and ambitious choreography of the legendary Twyla Tharp.
Dancers featured in this touring production include Ramona Kelley, Christopher Vo, Stephen Hanna, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Marielys Molina, Anthony Burrell, Matthew Stockwell Dibble, and Meredith Miles. All of them are highly skilled and ridiculously gorgeous artists with bodies that we all can admire. Let’s just say there is a lot of eye candy in this show. Costumed by Katherine Roth, the ladies’ outfits range from retro looking wrap dresses to something you would see in the Victoria’s Secret catalog. For the hunky men, they do Frank proud in the proper attire - until they take their shirts off, revealing their well-toned physiques. Again, there is something for everyone!
The coupling and dance numbers in this show are top notch, and are performed at high capacity for 80 minutes to an impressive representation of Sinatra’s songs. Even the jaded fans who are addicted to shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing with the Stars" who expect amazing stunts will be wowed by the execution of the complex and at points, daring, choreography of Tharp. Of course, for Tharp followers, it is what was anticipated and it is safe to say it was truly delivered by this talented lot. And since it's Frank’s world, and we just live in it, the men in this show tend to upstage the women - Frank was a take charge kind of guy, and there is a wise guy element that's, well, just cool.
Another character in the show is the lighting, designed beautifully by Donald Holder. From use of the Center’s resident disco ball to stars that reach out into the audience to the fantastic nod to The Chairman at the closing number, the elements that encourage the wow factor are all in place.
Make some calls, make a plan, get a date, and head out to SCFTA to take in this marvel of a show; a music and dance collaboration with cool credibility.