Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pantages opens season with a Sensational COME FLY AWAY

Photos by Joan Marcus

The Fall Broadway/LA season opened at the Pantages with a flourish last night as Twyla Tharp’s dazzling dance musical Come Fly Away played to a packed house. It is a fiercely passionate, sexually charged 80-minute show that combines classic and newly discovered vocal performances from the Sinatra archives and Twyla Tharp’s electrifying choreography. The result is an exquisite cocktail of sound, movement, color and light.

Over the course of one night we watch four couples as they play tug of war with each other on the dance floor while serenaded by Ol' Blue Eyes himself and a killer 14-piece orchestra. It is an arc that stretches from the most innocent of young love to the cat and mouse games of a much more suggestive and dangerous attraction, all played out in gravity-defying perfection by dancers who are absolutely spectacular.

During a nonstop opening that moves quickly from Sinatra’s classic “Stardust” to the irresistible “Luck Be a Lady,” we meet them. There’s Betsy and Marty, the naïve waiter and young girl smitten with love at first sight; Kate, the vixen and her volatile lover Hank; and Babe, the lean and leggy femme fatale in a red dress, her charismatic lover Sid, and errant admirer Chanos, who partners up with the fun-loving Slim once he is rejected by Babe. Throughout the night they take turns in the spotlight as their stories weave in and out of each other with a multitude of breathtaking sequences.

In “Let’s Fall in Love” and “You Make Me Feel So Young” comedy abounds for Betsy and Marty as they bumble through their awkwardness with unbridled enthusiasm and beautiful partnering and lifts that disintegrate into hilarious positions. Each time they return it gets funnier and funnier.

Quite the opposite in tone are Kate and Hank, in whom we glimpse a much more tempestuous relationship. “Fly Me To The Moon” sets up her personality as the ensemble men literally throw her among them in a progressive series of lifts that parallels her flirtations as Hank looks on. By the time the pair collides in “That’s Life” we see the erotic rough and tumble side of their passion in a body-wrapping showstopper of a duet.

Classic elegance and style befit the luscious blonde Babe and heartthrob Sid in “I’ve Got a Crush On You” and “Witchcraft,” and when Chanos approaches her in “Body and Soul,” her rejection propels him into a stunning dance counterpoint around them and a detour to the bottle. And while we’re talking stunning, the men break out in an explosive testosterone-laden version of “I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die” that turns up the heat and steams up the house.

To a one, the dancers in Come Fly Away are a testament to what dedication to one’s art can achieve, their collective training including some of the finest ballet companies around the world, however they are not the only ones featured in this intoxicating evening. Brian Miller and his onstage band are about as terrific a partner as you can get for a Sinatra tribute, with a brass section to die for and a swingin' style that never stops. And when the ballroom peels away and we’re left with the band suspended in a starlit sky, the effect is sensational. Credit for that finale, as well as the sleek look of the club and its variations, goes to James Youmans and Donald Holder (scenic design and lighting respectively). Peter McBoyle also receives high marks for the seamless integration of the musical elements in his sound design.

Opening night cast: Mallauri Esquibel (Betsy), Ron Todorowski (Marty), Cody Green (Sid), Meredith Miles (Babe), Marceea Moreno (Kate), Martin Harvey (Hank), Matthew Stockwell Dibble (Chanos), and Marielys Molina (Slim). Ensemble: Marina Lazzaretto, Candy Olsen, Julius Anthony Rubio, Justin Urso, Tanairi Sade Vazquez, and Michael Williams.

Come Fly Away runs through November 6th at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Click Here for tickets and more information.

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