I am not a dancer. I know that this is shocking information, especially since once you see me in all my five foot, clumsy glory, you will wonder what in the world has prevented me from dominating the dance floor. But even with this handicap, I love dance shows. I love watching graceful and coordinated (Important in dance I have found) individuals tell a story though dance.
Combine this with the songs of Frank Sinatra and I am a happy girl. I like Sinatra’s songs and think they could lend themselves to a fun show. So I happily went to see Come Fly Away at the San Diego Civic Theater.
Being the epitome of a non dancer I took my friend along with me who is a dancer, for more technical feedback. Curiously her feedback was “less crotch shots of the female dancers”, which is not a bad note.
The dancing is really really good. It is a mix of jazz, modern and ballet. The dancers were fluid and their lines were beautiful. Especially the gentleman who played a “Chanos” the drunk (his spins were beautiful) and the young waiter,” Marty”, who was adorable in his enthusiasm and high energy. The dances don’t so much end and begin as they blend into each other and one couple might fade away as others become more prominent. There are a tremendous amount of lifts in this show (many which feature the woman in a full split facing the audience – hence the crotch shot comment). There are so many lifts that it was almost like whenever someone wondered “what shall the next step be?” the answer was always “A lift!”
All this combined makes for a continuously moving stage and characters that are in the background and always moving. And their movements are not always things that help define the story. A girl randomly moves chairs and wanders around. One guy is dumped by the hot blond and so naturally he proceeds to find another girl and have sex with her against the proscenium. Meanwhile the mood spread and it seems for a moment that an orgy breaks out.
The characters were also asked to do some very strange things which I cannot begin to comprehend:
- · One character was always crawling over the stage, even across the front of the stage during another couples dance. Bonus for some - she was mostly not dressed while doing this.The same character was passed around between the men in the company for the first half of the show, finally settling on one guy. I think she was supposedly to be the “Vamp” character, but really I couldn’t think of her as anything but “tiger crawl” girl.
- · One character was choreographed to deliberately pull gum out of his pocket, unwrap it, put it in his mouth and throw the wrapper o the floor. WTF? How does this add anything to anything? Plus I was always worried that he was going to choke as he chewed and danced. (but he does get bonus points for being able to dance and chew gum at the same time)
- · Inexplicably take of your clothes…….at some point all the men took off their shirts and the waiter his pants. Why? No. Idea. (but it sounds very unhygienic for a supper club) I have no idea why they took off their clothes and danced around, and then some of the girls ended up in the underwear and negligees. Why? Why in a supper club? At this point my friend deemed it “sexy naked time at the Sinatra Club”.
But here is the main problem; I was trying to make sense of it. This was a bad plan. The plot is so thin you could read a book in the dark through it. The “characters” are so loosely created that they barely meet the stereotypical archetypes. There are the young couple in throes of first love, there’s the couple that fights (the vamp and her …rebellious whatever he is), the drunk (which I didn’t get from viewing, it was only after dancer referred to his character as that after the show did I get a label for him. Before this he was referred to as the guy with the mustache).
It has been referred to as Tharp’s homage to Sinatra, which I would have loved to seen, but this not it. The dances don’t seem to take any cue from Sinatra in either dance styles or costumes. The men are in nice suits and ties but the women are in shiny short dresses that defy any time period other tacky 70’s. The dancing is strong no doubt; it just makes no sense at times.
An unexpected bonus was the awesomeness of the band. They have the unenviable task of playing along with vocal tracks of Frank Sinatra singing in different venues and with different bands and make it sound cohesive. The band does this and more. They blend with the vocals so well I almost expected Old Blue eyes to walk out at some point. The band has some moments to highlight their drummer and some horns, including the saxophone player, which are stellar. Its good music that makes the audience forget that they’re there to see a dance show.
Upon inquiry it was discovered that the band plays to a series of “click tracks”. So the original vocals are taken and the music is removed, but they have a background “click track” that helps the band keep track of the beat and where they should be. Like a giant metronome, I suppose. This is the most simplified version of how they do this possible, I’m sure that it is much more complicated in actuality. No matter how it’s done, it was a fantastic performance from the band.
Have you see this show? What were your thoughts? I need someone to discuss this with so comment!