‘Come Fly Away’ at The Kennedy Center by David Friscic

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Twyla Tharp, the innovative dance pioneer and Kennedy Center Honors recipient, joins forces with the smooth, lush, and swinging vocals of Frank Sinatra to conceive the glorious and witty homage to life during the big band era in Come Fly Away. In traditional Twyla Tharp style, nothing is really traditional at all, and that is what makes this theatrical dance piece so intriguing. The juxtaposition of Tharp’s splendid ensemble of meticulously trained dancers cavorting about the stage of the Eisenhower Theater – arms and legs akimbo, swooping into each other’s arms, erotically caressing each other’s limbs and thrashing about on the floor – are the perfect counterpoint to the traditional gold standard singing of ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes.’

Tanairi Sade Vazquez and Ron Todorowski in'Come Fly Away.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

Tharp’s signature style is always so bracingly distinctive and you can easily mention her work in the same breath as other innovative dance masters such as Bob Fosse, Martha Graham and Agnes DeMille. This distinctive style was highlighted to very good advantage set against the twenty-seven musical standards that flowed effortlessly and seamlessly from “Stardust” to “That’s Life” to “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” to “New York, New York.” Tharp has done a stellar and imaginative job in conceiving, directing, and choreographing this show – leading a superb ensemble of dancers in a whimsical and provocative take on the very human and fallible interactions of people falling in and out of love in one particularly engaging nightclub.

The decision to make this piece an 80-minute parade of non-stop musical numbers and songs is particularly inspired as the evening feels like a hyper-charged jolt of adrenaline. The whole company never seems to tire from one number to the next–I could really sense no weak spots whatsoever. Tharp’s iconoclastic, slangy and streetwise style is an excellent showcase for dancers who are, first and foremost, quite obviously very formally trained. Often, Tharp’s dancers cavort and  move like delirious puppets who are being pulled at the strings.

Highlights of the night were Anthony Burrell and Ashley Blair Fitzgerald in the jolting “That’s Life” and the more languid “One for My Baby.” Also standing out was Ron Todorowski and Amy Ruggiero in the opening number “Stardust” and in the consistently inventive – and my favorite – “Pick Yourself Up.”

Mallauri Esquibel and Ron Todorowski in 'Come Fly Away.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

Strikingly set against a live fifteen – piece band lead by Conductor and Pianist Rob Cookman, this Come Fly Away has superb music supervision and additional orchestrations and arrangements by Dave Pierce. All techncial aspects are top-notch – in particular, the scenic design by James Youmans and the costume design by Katherine Roth.

If you are looking for an invigorating, witty and innovative take on the standards of Sinatra coupled with the creative dance moves of Twyla Tharp, head on over to Come Fly Away.


Come Fly Away plays through April 29, 2012 at the Eisenhower Theater at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts -2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.

LINKS

Carolyn Kelemen’s interview of Come Fly Away’s Ashley Blair Fitzgerald.

Watch a preview montage video of Come Fly Away.

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.