Come Fly Away, the 2010 Broadway dance revue playing now through Sunday at the Durham Performing Arts Center, is an electrifying PG-13-rated jukebox musical. It combines vibrant baritone vocal tracks by Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra (1915-98) and dazzling acrobatic dance routines by award-winning director and choreographer Twyla Tharp with invigorating instrumental accompaniment — and scintillating solos, especially on saxophone — by an exuberant onstage band conducted by Rob Cookman. (These cats can really wail!)
On opening night at DPAC on Tuesday, the constantly changing cast included four couples — Ron Todorowski as Marty and Mallauri Esquibel as Betsy, Cody Green as Sid and Come Fly Away dance captain Laurie Kanyok as Babe, Anthony Burrell as Hank and Ashley Blair Fitzgerald as Kate, and Matthew Stock Well Dibble as Chanos and Marielys Molina as Slim — plus an energetic ensemble that included Candy Olsen, Julius Anthony Rubio, Amy Ruggiero, Justin Urso, Tanairi Sade Vazquez, and Michael Williams.
Individually and together, they tripped the light fantastic in a flashy Las Vegas-style nightclub setting that provided a superlative springboard for the four courting couples to change partners and dance. Moreover, with the Broadway creative team of director and choreographer Twyla Tharp and associate director/choreographer Kim Craven, scenic designer James Youmans, costume designer Katherine Roth, lighting designer Donald Holder, and sound designer Peter McBoyle repeating their roles for the national tour, Come Fly Away looks and sounds like a million bucks.
By my count, the two-act Broadway version of Come Fly Away contained 35 songs, performed in Ol’ Blue Eyes’ original arrangements by Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones, and others. The first national tour of Come Fly Away, which also features the original arrangements of 27 choice selections from the Frank Sinatra songbook, is performed in just 70 minutes, without intermission. Even so, the show seems a bit too long — and its “characters” and their motivations remain a mystery as they dance, dance, dance the night away. But that did not keep the DPAC first-nighters from giving Come Fly Away an extended standing ovation at the final curtain.
The tour song list includes 23 songs from the Broadway show, plus four new songs, including the two opening numbers: the wistful love song “Stardust” (music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Mitchell Parish) and the gamblers’ frantic plea “Luck Be a Lady” (music and lyrics by Frank Loesser) from Guys and Dolls (1950).
In a veritable hit parade of chart-toppers by the Chairman of the Board, three songs from Sinatra’s later career were showstoppers: “That’s Life” (music and lyrics by Dean Kay and Kelly L. Gordon), “My Way” (lyrics by Paul Anka and Gilles Thibault and music by Claude François and Jacques Revaux), and “(The Theme from) New York, New York” (lyrics by Fred Ebb and music by John Kander). Sinatra first recorded these three numbers in 1966, 1969, and 1980, respectively; and they will remain of his signature songs as long as the legendary singer and actor from Hoboken, NJ remains the epitome of cool.
WARNING: The Durham Performing Arts Center cautions parents that Come Fly Away is “Not recommended for children under the age of 13 due to depictions of intimate situations and sensuous dance.”
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 29th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/09/29/1524801/come-fly-away-at-dpac-a-flashy.html; and Sept. 25th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview and Sept. 28th review, both by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/15795541/article-Review–%E2%80%98Come-Fly-Away%E2%80%99-a-legendary-night-of-music-and-dance?instance=main_article and http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/15665636/article-Dancing-to-Sinatra-in-“Come-Fly-Away”-?,
respectively (Note 1: You must register first to read this article) (Note 2: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 27th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/09/ring-a-ding-ding-come-fly-away-at-dpac-features-vocals-by-frank-sinatra-and-dances-by-twyla-tharp/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents COME FLY AWAY at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29, 8 p.m. Sept. 30, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 1, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at DPAC, in the American Tobacco District, at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $37.50-$74.25 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919/680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1550863.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.comeflyaway.com/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/. DIRECTIONS: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan_your_visit/getting_here.
The Musical: http://www.comeflyaway.com/ (official web page), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Fly_Away (Wikipedia) and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=485556 (Internet Broadway Database).
Twyla Tharp: http://www.twylatharp.org/ (official website), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twyla_Tharp (Wikipedia), and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=16324 (Internet Broadway Database).
Frank Sinatra: http://www.sinatra.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Sinatra (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.