THE ARTS ETC
Bated Breath Theatre Company
Bing Arts Center
Broad Brook Opera House
Chester Theatre Company
Elizabeth Taylor's Broadway Debut
Exit 7 Players
Greene Room Productions
Come Fly Away may be the most exciting and dramatically pleasing musical review I have ever – or will ever – see, savor, enjoy, marvel at, and relish to a fare-thee-well. If you appreciate the music championed by Sinatra and the beauty of the human form pulsating with the energy created byTwyla Tharp’s imaginative choreography, and if you have a sock of spendable income to cover a ticket selling at $17 to $72, then skip this review, contact the Bushnell box office (860-987-5900), and reserve your ticket now because this outstanding production ends with the 6:30 pm Sunday performance on June 3rd.
You can take the above paragraph to the bank.
From out of the depths of a coal black stage, Sinatra’s unique baritone – bare voice, no accompaniment – filled Mortensen Theatre with the soulful lyrics of the classic Stardust. His impeccable phrasing set the stage for dancing drama ranging from playful to seriously intense. His self-evident soul mate, Twyla Tharp, wove his songs into the magical kingdom of The Dance.
Tiny pools of light broke open the darkness, gradually exposing the stage – a nightclub. Stretched across the rear wall was an elevated, live big band that kept whatever was needed ready to go – ballads, jazz, humor, anger, romance – and shook up the status quo with Count Basie’s Jumpin’ at the Woodside and Take Five from the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The bar off to the side sparkled with glasses.
Nothing interfered with the dance floor that dominated the stage. Dancers became animated as the spotlights exposed them. The opening number, Luck Be a Lady, electrified the cast. They leaped, slid, whirled. Focusing seemed impossible while scanning the whoopdydoing, but I was struck by the lively personality of a dancer I dubbed “Pepper Pot.” Her posture suggested good-natured sassiness. She wasn’t paired with anyone whereas a statuesque blonde in a blazing red, split-paneled dress danced cooly with a partner. Meet Marty (Christopher Vo) and Betsy (Ramona Kelly) who were giving serious thought to the lyrics of Let’s Fall in Love.
With Fly Me to the Moon, “Pepper Pot’s” cover was blown. Meet Kate (Ashley Blair Fitzgerald) dancing with Hank (Anthony Burrell), who according to the program was judged as “exquisite” and the “best dancer in New York.” From my perspective, I couldn’t disagree; further, I considered his upper back tattoo the most attractive tattoo I’ve seen. As Kate and Hank, throughout the 80-minute show, their dancing created major sparks. Their moments of joy soothed and mesmerized whereas anger eruptions shocked, especially when Hank sent Kate through the air like a heat-seeking missile or she skimmed along the floor. Time after time, a truism was proved true: timing is everything.
Twyla Tharp’s intricate choreography has dancers switching partners at warp speed as if they’re disentangling from the innards of a line of Rubick cubes without interfearing with the beat. The dancers weave tapestries of arms and legs. They never break character.
Other wonderful featured dancers are Joana Alfonso (Slim); Matthew Stockwell Dibble (Chanos); Stephen Hanna (Sid); Meredith Miles (Babe); Ron Todorowski (Marty/Chanos).
And The Ensemble, dedicated dancers all: Nathan Madden; Marceea Moreno; Candy Olsen; Julius Anthony Rubio; Tanairi Sade Vazquez; Michael Williams
According to a press release, these dancers represent 14 of the world’s finest dancers. I believe the hype! I’m a witness to their talent and dedication to give their performances all they’ve got to give. Just for kicks, here’s their Bushnell schedule: Tuesday - Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 8:00 pm, Saturday at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm. Eight shows in six days. Four of the shows in two days.
The Big Band is into this production. Authenticity – they get it. Conductor/Piano: Rob Cookman*.
Reeds – Doug Lawrence, P. J. Perry*, Julian Tanaka,
Trumpets: Mike Herriott*, Jim Keen, Sam Oatts.
Trombones: Michael Joyce, James Nelson*, Mark Williams
Guitar: Buddy Fambro
Drums: Paul Ringenbach.
The musical numbers are Stardust; Luck Be a Lady; Let’s Fall in Love; Fly Me to the Moon; I’ve Got a Crush On You; Body and Soul; Here’s to the Losers; You Make Me Feel So Young; Witchcraft; Yes Sir, That’s My Baby; Learnin’ the Blues; That’s Life; Makin’ Whoopee; I Like to Lead When I Dance; Jumpin’ at the Woodside; Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week; I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die; Pick Yourself Up; Let’s Face the Music and Dance; Teach Me Tonight; Take Five; Lean Baby; Makin’ Whoopee (reprise); One for My Baby; The Way You Look Tonight/My Funny Valentine; My Way; New York, New York.