Theater Review: "Come Fly Away" At The Pantages
Choreographed by famed choreographer Twyla Tharp, "Come Fly Away" vaguely follows a few sets of couples as they dance in a club in an indeterminate era and location, all to the sweet, crooning tunes of Frank Sinatra.
The most immediately apparent cause of the audience's alienation is the sheer volume of the show. Perhaps the house management decided to do this to cater to the show's older demographic, but nevertheless, Sinatra's voice pounds through the speakers, leaving the audience in an auditory bubble where they cannot even hear what the rest of the audience is doing.
Live theater is, above all, a communal experience, but the high decibel level of the show makes the audience feel like they are watching the show alone. That is not the only strange part about about the auditory experience of the show, though; the show features a live band accompanying Sinatra's vocal tracks. For the most part, the two mix well, though it is a jarring juxtaposition to hear at first. At times, however, the two do not mesh well, and it is distracting.
The dancing is all nice enough, though still sterile, somehow. Dance is such an incredible performance medium because it can be so immediately emotionally evocative, yet the dancing in the show failed to bring that to life. Additionally, there were numerous rhythmic errors during the show, which were quite diverting. When five backup dancers are all dancing hitting the same beats and the featured dancer is alternating between hitting those beats either before or after them, it pulls the audience out of the show.
Furthermore, there seemed to be little to no emotional connection between the dancers, who seemed more like prancing animals than humans interacting with one another. However, delightful understudies Ron Todorowski and Mallauri Esquibel shone as the almost annoyingly adorable Marty and Betsy, an awkward waiter and the girl he is trying to seduce in his own puerile way.
Another jarring part of the show are the costumes (by Katherine Roth). The costumes are all beautiful, but while all the characters often appear on the stage simultaneously, the costumes all seem to be from different eras. Furthermore, as the show wears on, the cast wears less and less clothing. Of course, they are all very attractive dancers with great bodies, but there doesn't seem to be a valid reason for them to be dancing almost-naked. They may be doing this to keep the audience's attention, as the point where the dancers start to strip is also where the show begins grinding to a halt. However, gratuitous bare skin should not be a crutch on which a show relies to engage the audience, and in this case, it comes off as more of a gimmick than anything else.
Similarly gimmick-y and distracting are the disco ball and light projections on the wall, which only serve to blind and distract the audience, respectively.
All in all, "Come Fly Away" is a disappointing show. And it could be so much more than it is. The show most recently appeared in Vegas, and it seems well suited for the Sunset Strip, where shows are performed multiple times per night before visitors go out on the town to try and emulate the Rat Pack. Here in Hollywood, though, "Come Fly Away" falls flat.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that "Come Fly Away" originated in Las Vegas.]
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