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 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".
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 oooo...so 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.|
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.