Come Fly Away

by Dee Thompson

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday August 6, 2011

The cast of "Come Fly Away"
The cast of "Come Fly Away"  (Source:Fox Theatre)

"Come Fly Away" lives up to its name. I never thought dancers could fly, but in this show they soar -- from amazingly high lifts to breathtaking acrobats, to characters who climb up on set pieces to dance -- nothing was earthbound.

One wouldn't necessarily think of pairing Frank Sinatra's voice and Twyla Tharp's choreography, but it's a match made in heaven. Sinatra was a self-professed "saloon singer." He epitomized "cool" and "hip" for more than forty years. When you heard Sinatra sing, you were listening to a master singer, a man with an amazing breadth of talent. His voice growls, soars, whispers, and croons. When you think of popular singers, nobody was ever more versatile than Ol' Blue Eyes.

Tharp's choreography is all about attitude. There's no dialogue at all in "Come Fly Away," but it's not necessary. The characters look, gesture, pout, kiss, sidle, run, and even slam the furniture around. Dialogue would be redundant.

The dancers are all about grace, though. The only awkward moments are choreographed to be awkward, and funny.

Humor is a key element of the show.

In just the first 10 minutes of the show two characters dance along to "Let's Fall in Love" and at the end they are supposed to kiss. A quick switcheroo and two of the guys are kissing, briefly. It's the only suggestion of anything a bit avant garde, but it plays as innocent rather than explicit.

There are enough beautiful bodies twining around sinuously onstage to keep everyone happy, though.

The choice of songs was obviously to emphasize the great variety of Sinatra. In the song "I Like to Lead When I Dance" it's crystal clear that the female wants to lead in the the ballroom dance moves. I had never heard the song before but it's a wonderful choice.

Two characters dance along to "Let's Fall in Love;" at the end they are supposed to kiss. A quick switcheroo and two of the guys are kissing, briefly. It's the only suggestion of anything avant garde.

I've never liked the song "That's Life" because it's so brash and in your face, but the choreography demonstrates an almost burlesque quality that perfectly epitomizes the energy of the song.

Tharp's choreography is never static.

The song "Makin Whoopee" is another prime example of that. When Sinatra sings "He's washing dishes, and baby clothes... He even sews" the men are pantomiming those actions. Somewhere around the middle of the show there's no Sinatra song, but the band is playing Dave Brubeck's 1950's classic "Take Five" and the dancers are sometimes holding hands, skipping playfully, in almost a conga line at times, of fluid, sinuous movement.

My ears got a rest from the Sinatra, but the band performed amazingly well. It was almost as if Sinatra was backstage singing, and took a break.

When you see the show, your eyes never grow tired, because just when you think there's nothing interesting left to do with the choreography, something new pops out.

At one point, the guys in the show strip down, bare chests flashing, one character even loses his pants. Then we get to watch his incredibly muscular legs, which were so distracting I can't even remember the name of the song. (Is it hot in here or is it just me?! Oh my...)

The show is billed as being "appropriate for ages 10 and up," and I understand why. There is an awful lot of sensuality. As I said, there are some folks dancing in their undies, and some, well, writhing around on the floor a bit.

I had my 15 year old son with me and a few times I was a tad uncomfortable, but then I thought, there's a lot more skin in 15 minutes of MTV videos. The sexuality in the show was all implied; there was nothing graphic.

The humor, the imaginative choreography, and the clean, bright sounds of the band created a totally absorbing, transformative theater experience. Even though I was sitting in the balcony, I felt like I had the best view in the house, and I did not want the show to end.

"Come Fly Away" plays through August 7 at the Fox Theater, 660 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta. For info and tickets call 404-881-2100 or visit

Dee Thompson is a writer and author of three books and writes a popular blog called The Crab Chronicles. She lives in Atlanta with her son.