It was a foxy night with sexy dancers and smooth musicians. This outing has been in the works for a long time. Some of you know that I’m a huge fan of living legend Twyla Tharpe, and I was finally going to get my chance to see her production, Come Fly Away at the FOX Theater in downtown Atlanta. If you want to know how I feel about the magnificent Tharpe check out my article on Atlanta Ballet’s Big Secret. After inviting all of my art loving friends with no takers, and begging my father to come out and watch my elfin spawn, I enjoyed this one all on my own.
The dialogue in this production was created by the velvety lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s memorable songs. As the curtain opened we were greeted by a 14 piece band, an impressive sight on
its own. Instead of being an invisible presence they were introduced, appreciated and then accepted as an integral part of the production. The musicians were old friends by the time we got to know the characters.
While the band held the place of honor upstage on a platform, the action unfolded down-stage in a 1940’s night club. A bar was set up -stage right surrounded by a cluster of tables and chairs, which was matched by a couple more tables on the other side. Like the tables the dancers were scattered about as they would be in a popular hangout. Through the music and lyrics of Sinatra, Tharpe told the tale of adult flirtation, love, jealousy, sex and they finally came to terms with the fact that they all did it their own way.
By the way, this one wasn’t for the kiddies. I had contemplated taking my 6 year old, Lady “H”, and was glad I didn’t. After a small instrumental break, the story was told in various stages of undress.
This was definitely Broadway by Tharpe. The choreography was conventional enough to appeal to a wide audience but had the intelligent quirk the choreographer is known for. I think she did a great job working with the B’way genre but also giving her fans, the ones who think she is the dirt from which Post-modern and contemporary dance grew from, something to chew on.
The performers were polished and slick. They could kick their own ears and do multiple turns and leaps in their sleep. The ladies were leggy and bendy and the men were strong and dapper. Christopher Vo gave a perfect performance as the naïve bar tender Marty. He was wonderfully awkward as he tried to connect with his soon to be lover Betsy, played by the innocent Ramona Kelley. Believable as the inexperienced suitor, Vo didn’t sacrifice his technique to play the part and there wasn’t anything his body couldn’t do.
I also loved the magnetic performance of Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, playing the sultry cougar like Kate. She spent the entire show trying to seduce the pin stripe wearing Hank who was played by Martin Harvey. He matched her well in dramatic integrity and chemistry. They drove the story forward from the pure sexuality of the couple, to deceit and pathetic drunken attempts to regain attention. Eventually they fell in love. All the other characters were fantastic but this was the story line that got your little dance critic from curtain to curtain.
It was a flirt-fest danced and performed very well. Keep your eye out as it tours the country and go when it lands in a city near you.