Monday, August 22, 2011

Come Fly Away

There was a time several years ago when I had been overdosed on Frank Sinatra.  It involved a car trip where 50 Sinatra songs were played in a row...even worse they were all classified as "romance" songs.  Since then I've slowly been adding some of the classic crooners pieces back into my repertoire.  "Come Fly With Me", and "Fly Me to the Moon" never left though, for obvious reasons, they're awesome space songs :)  I still typically prefer the upbeat to the slow romantic, but when the musical Come Fly Away, set completely to Frank Sinatra songs with his original vocals, arrived in town, it was not to be missed.

The plot is told completely through dance with choreography by Twyla Tharp, and music via a swing style band at the back of the stage.  It follows the romantic relationship stories of 4 couples at a New York nightclub.  Beyond that the plot details can pretty much be whatever the viewer puts into it.  Reading the wikipedia page I didn't reach the same conclusions about the characters, which is part of the joy of the performing arts in general--they can become what you want them to be.  What I would have appreciated was some sort of introduction to the characters names.  As it was it took remembering who did what dance and referencing the program to figure out who was who once I got home.

Couple Number 1: The sweet and innocent bartender Marty who falls for Betsy, the shy girl in the frilly pink dress.  In real life, Ron Todorowski and Mallauri Esquibel.  Some of their highlight numbers are the  self conscious, getting to know you feel of "Let's Fall in Love" (another of the Sinatra songs that quickly found it's way back onto my "like" list) and "The Way You Look Tonight/My Funny Valentine" near the end of the show showing how their relationship has matured.


Couple Number 2: The partner swapping Chanos and Slim.  Each arrive with someone else, and they end up together as a result of being the last to pair up.  Perhaps this is the story I understood the least.  Slim was used by other guys to make their girl of choice jealous and Chanos seemed to have the least stage time although some good dance tricks and a kind of sleezy appearance.  Both Marielys Molina (Slim) and Matthew Stockwell Dibble (Chanos) were also part of the Broadway cast.  Their primary duets were "Yes Sir, That's My Baby", and the reprise of "Makin' Woopee".   Chanos showed up in "Body and Soul" with Couple #3, and Slim with Couple #4 in "Learnin' the Blues" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance".

Couple Number 3: The confident pursuit by Sid, of the sleek sophisticated Babe and the partnership most developed story wise.  John Selya at 41 years old is muscular and still a prime dancer.  He threw girls around, busted out the hip hop as part of "I Like to Lead When I Dance", a sort of challenge dance between Sid and Babe, like a much younger guy. Meredith Miles appeared the most balletic of the stars with her tight French rolled hair, bright red dress and very fluid movements.  Other duets they had were the introductory "I've Got a Crush On You", "Witchcraft", and "Teach Me Tonight".

Couple Number 4:  A tumultuous relationship between the incredibly hot (and Canadian!) Cody Green as Hank, and the "everyone wants me, so you should too", Kate (played by Laurie Kanyok).  Both of them were also in the Broadway cast.  This was a love/hate relationship with the must abrupt (maybe hungry would be a better word) style of dancing, showcased so well in the "That's Life" duet!  They also danced to "Fly Me to the Moon" as an introduction and Kate's feet hardly touched the ground she was tossed between Hank and the ensemble guys through the entire thing!  They go off with other people, I'll say to make the other jealous and then reconcile with "One for My Baby" which I took to just be the last drink/last dance bar closing type song where she's laying it all out there emotionally.  Although this is not the take that was seen by another reviewer, who had them as the let's just be friends couple by the end.  I guess I'm a sucker for wanting everyone to have a happy ending.

Through the dancing you could see the ballet influence, but definitely with a twist.  The show became steamier as the hours in the bar passed, the clothing decreased (although the shirtless guys, totally ripped and sexy! were quite enjoyable eye-candy), and the dancing became raunchier.  Some of the company dancers really showed off the talent, particularly the men in "I'm Gonna Live 'Til I Die" which had some impressive leaps and spins.  Ron Todorowski was particularly acrobatic and even threw a forward handsfree layout flip into his bow at the end.

Solo trombonist and saxophonist on left.
Of course these reviews are incomplete without some mention of the musicians.  The 14 member band consisted of piano, guitar, bass, drums, trumpets, trombones, and a variety of saxes, with the odd flute and clarinet thrown in.  "Take Five" was a number for the whole company and showed off the band, particularly one of the sax players with the solo.  Also featured in another song was one of the trombonists with a nice mellow, muted solo.  They all got to show off their choreography skills with some marching band style horn to the right, now horn to the left, motion.

How a production like this, involving live musicians and a singer 13 years dead, comes together is quite fascinating.  According a Globe and Mail article the original Sinatra performance tapes, some from way back in 1957 which had to be baked in an oven to reattach the adhesive, were used and the vocals separated from the musical accompaniment.  A click track was then created which allows the conductor to match the time of the musicians to the vocals by listening to metronome type sounds.  Today music is pre-recorded and the singer later records the vocals, however Sinatra was in a studio with the live orchestra so they could give and take between them which allows for the excitement of a live performance to come through even now.

The joys of technology combined with swinging music, and energetic dance create an evening experience quite unlike anything else I've seen.

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