Archive for March, 2010
The reviews for Come Fly Away are in and they couldn’t be more mixed. Everyone agrees that this is the quintessential jukebox musical, but whether there’s any place for a story-less show is up for debate. Here’s what the major publications had to say:
Tharp has built shows around Sinatra before, and the singer himself once told her, “You give me class.” Tharp now returns the compliment, using a selection of his master recordings as the basis for a gorgeously seamless narrative … The spectacle is overwhelming at first. But then the too-muchness of it all hits the groove of just-rightness, thanks to the splendor of Tharp’s dancers. Read the full review.
The New York Times
In this dazzling new dance musical … Ms. Tharp deploys a stage full of brilliant performers to heighten the theatrical allure of ballroom dance, complementing the immortal appeal of Sinatra’s singing with movement that captures the underlying emotional tensions in it. The yearning to connect and the impulse toward flight — those contradictory verities of romantic entanglement — take sharp visceral form in Ms. Tharp’s fast, flashing, remarkably intricate dances … The sparkly backdrop is a little trite, and the costumes by Katherine Roth are likewise glossy pastiches of period classics, slick suits for the men and silky wrap dresses for the women. But pop love songs thrive on cliché; it takes singers like Sinatra to rub the polish off them to reveal the eternal truths underneath, and a choreographer like Ms. Tharp (who also directed) to push against the obvious and release new facets of the songs’ energies … In an evening as dance-rich as this, a few flaws are inevitable … At times “Come Fly Away” pushes its effects a little too insistently … But these are minor problems in a major new work of pop dance theater, one that reveals fresh dimensions on multiple viewings. Read the full review.
This consistently diverting, sometimes intoxicating, and beautifully performed dance-theater piece is likely to please long-time Tharp and Sinatra devotees, and perhaps even turn one’s followers into the other’s fans … Tharp has smartly tailored the work to the strengths of her cast — all of whom are longtime associates of the choreographer excerpt Farmer (who spent 23 years with Merce Cunningham) … Some of the vignettes work better with the lyrics than others … If there’s a larger problem here, it’s that the show’s choreographic concept — which leans heavily on pas de deux and solo turns — rarely allows Tharp to show off her greatest gift: her use of patterning. Read the full review.
New York Post
Tharp doesn’t illustrate the lyrics, going instead for mood inspired by the music itself. The upside is that this avoids heavy-handed (or is that heavy-footed?) mimicry. Many of the most compelling moments occur when seduction is coated in ferocity, as in “That’s Life,” which feels true to Sinatra’s less savory side. The downside is that, after a while, repetitiveness seeps in. Read the full review.
The Hollywood Reporter
Though this Frank Sinatra-themed effort boasts powerhouse choreography and sizzling dancing, it doesn’t have appreciably more impact than the director-choreographer’s previous, more concise works based on the singer’s classic output, “Nine Sinatra Songs” and “Sinatra Suite.” The show will best be appreciated by dance aficionados rather than general audiences, who might be put off by the lack of a coherent story line. Still, the wonderful dancing, not to mention the Sinatra magic, might help propel the show to a good run … Tharp’s choreography is consistently striking and inventive, taking a more abstract, sensual tone in the second act, when the performers shed a good deal of their clothing. But despite the sensational dancing on display, the show inevitably loses impact over the course of its two-hour running time. Read the full review.
Only intermittently gets off the ground. This despite an impressive dance corps, a handsome production, a fine swing band and Ol’ Blue Eyes croonin’ away from limboland. Sinatra’s seductive voice and Tharp’s sexy moves are well matched, building to some impressively climactic peaks. General audiences, though, might well run out of stamina before the dancers do … While the dances grow more intense and intriguing in the after-hours second act, the audience seems noticeably less attentive as the songs cascade by. Read the full review.
Wall Street Journal
The songs are familiar, the dancers are pretty, the set is fancy and the band is hot. All that’s missing from this recipe for success are a star and a few memorable onstage events … A good many people disagree with my largely unfavorable opinion of Ms. Tharp’s work, so let me say now that if you like her stuff, you’ll like “Come Fly Away,” which is chock full of her signature moves (the women get flung around a lot). I find her choreography cluttered, and here as in “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” I’m also struck by her inability or unwillingness to spin a sustained narrative. For all intents and purposes, “Come Fly Away” amounts to an evening-long suite of vignettes that have little in common beyond their setting…As for the real star of “Come Fly Away,” I confess to finding it disconcerting to hear the disembodied voice of Ol’ Blue Eyes electronically superimposed over Russ Kassoff’s 18-piece band throughout most of the evening. Read the full review.
There’s Sinatra’s recorded singing (with a live band’s accompaniment), there’s live singing, and a lot of dancing (for nearly all the show’s two-hour running time) by a hot-footed and steamy-browed corps of talents the likes of which only Tharp could assemble. What there is not, however, is a show, and none of the considerable physical innovation on display can hide that. Whether this will be a problem for you depends entirely on your patience for Tharp and this style of non-storytelling storytelling. If you have none, don’t bother. To those who care about nothing more than watching really hot dancers do really hot dancing, it won’t matter at all … Most of the last hour [plays] like an ad for eternal celibacy. Yes, Come Fly Away is the rare dance show that can make sex boring … Because Tharp hasn’t found the choreographic language necessary to honor this unique man and his music, Come Fly Away feels like more of an academic exercise than a guttural one, a half-realized experiment that in its finest moments is only gold-plated. Read the full review.
NY Daily News
Frank Sinatra’s singing oozes effortless cool. Twyla Tharp’s dancing reeks of sweaty showmanship. Combined, it’s a pair of two left feet, and that’s a shaky foundation for the choreographer-director’s new Broadway brainchild … The production strives to recapture the magic of Tharp’s “Movin’ Out” (a hit, to Billy Joel tunes) and to erase the memory of “The Times They Are-a-Changin’” (a flop, to the Bob Dylan songbook). Unfortunately, “Fly Away” falls closer to the latter. Unless you’re a BIG fan of the Chairman of the Board and ballet-infused modern dance, Tharp’s latest can be as tedious as waiting on a tarmac … Tharp shoots herself in the foot by getting repetitive and relying on hokey, literal-minded movements. Outstretched propeller arms when a lyric mentions flying? Really. Read the full review.
A jazz, a gas, a cuckoo-cuckoo, ring-a-ding fling, man! There’s not much of a plot, but I didn’t miss one as 15 sexy, athletic dancers coupled and uncoupled to the Chairman of the Board’s recorded voice combined with a rich live orchestra … With the combined audiences of Sinatra and Tharp fans, “Come Fly Away” could easily soar into box office heaven and provide jobs for many Back Stage readers for years to come. Read the full review.
All About Me, the new musical featuring the talents of Dame Edna and Micheal Feinstein, opened on Broadway last night and the verdict is that the two personalities are simply too dissimilar to pull off a show together. Dame Edna is too large and brash and Feinstein too sweet and traditional; the combination feels forced at best.
Some egos, particularly in this business we call show, are way too big and unruly to share a spotlight. I mean that in the nicest possible way, to use a disclaimer often employed by the great Dame Edna Everage. It is, as it happens, Dame Edna of whom I am speaking. Read the full review.
Not since Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison moved in together has Broadway had such an odd couple on the boards. Read the full review.
It’s a joy to have Dame Edna Everage back on Broadway, regardless of the indignities she’s forced to suffer in “All About Me.” After umpteen appearances, Barry Humphries’ monstrously funny incarnation of an Australian housewife run amok on fame and flattery still retains its savage wit. But Christopher Durang and his multiple co-scribes have to answer for the lame idea of teaming up La Belle Dame Sans Merci with the cafe singer and musical jack-of-all-trades, Michael Feinstein. Better Larry the Cable Guy than a musical-theater performer whose sensibility is so at odds with hers. Read the full review.
In the rapidly receding days of early network television, variety hours were regularly scheduled — perhaps the most famous being the 1953 Ford Motor Company’s 50th anniversary show featuring Ethel Merman and Mary Martin sailing through a 13-minute greatest-hits medley. So imagine a show back then pairing Milton Berle, always famous for his drag routines, and chart-topper Eddie Fisher, and you’ve conjured something like the mildly diverting All About Me, a sort of shotgun-wedding teaming of Barry Humphries as ribald Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein as his ebullient self, at the Henry Miller’s Theatre. Read the full review.
Rule number one of theatrical addition is that two stars who are great alone may not be great together. Rule number two is that the chances of rule number one occurring increase exponentially if said stars are as unalike as cake and pi. Proving both dicta is All About Me, which just opened at Henry Miller’s Theatre. It tries to be a two-star show starring Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna Everage, but ends up being two one-star shows. Read the full review.
It’s great to have Dame Edna Everage back in town, but she’s part of a package that includes Michael Feinstein — and that’s no deal. Read the full review.
New Musicals and Transfers
The Michael Grandage-directed production of Evita, which opened at London’s Adelphi Theatre in June 2006 is officially heading to Broadway next year. Elena Roger, who starred in the West End production, will repeat her performance in the Broadway remount. Rumor has it that Ricky Martin is in talks to play Che, though this has not been confirmed.
Disney was apparently in talks with Billy Elliot‘s Stephen Daldry to direct a stage adaptation of Dumbo. Though he turned down the job, they’re still on the hunt for a new director for the musical. We can only hope Dumbo will fare better than some of Disney’s recent attempts to adapt their animated films for the stage (ie. The Little Mermaid, Tarzan). No names have yet been attached to this project.
A new jukebox musical called Unchain My Heart will be heading to Broadway on Nov. 7 this year. Featuring the music of Ray Charles and a book by Suzan-Lori Parks, casting for the production has not yet been announced.
The Canadian Press is reporting that Mel Brooks is working on a musical adaptation of his film, Blazing Saddles. Brooks has apparently already written two songs for the show though he’ll be taking his time bringing it to Broadway due to the “lukewarm” reception Young Frankenstein received.
Producer David Shor announced the creative team for the Broadway aimed Sleepless in Seattle – The Musical. Michelle Citrin, Michael Garin and Josh Nelson will serve as composers/lyricists, Jeff Arch (who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay) will be the show’s librettist and Joel Zwick will direct. The musical adaptation is hoping to make a Broadway bow on Valentine’s Day 2011.
News About Shows Opening Soon
Kristin Chenoweth will be singing the song “I Say a Little Prayer” in the revival of Promises, Promises. Though by the show’s composer, Burt Bacharach, the song was not included in the original production. Not exactly sure where they’re gonna put it, but I’m guessing it’s gonna be one of those where the guy behind you starts singing along…
Kelsey Grammer who is returning to Broadway in the role of Georges in La Cage Aux Folles, shared that he will take on the role of Albin six months into the musical’s run. In other casting news, the musical’s producers announced that Fred Applegate (The Producers, Young Frankenstein) will take on the roles of Edouard Dindon and M. Renaud in La Cage Aux Folles.
It may not even fit under this category anymore (though Julie Taymor is adamant that it will open this fall), but the big news is that Evan Rachel Wood, who was to play Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has left the production due to “scheduling conflicts.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, opened to mixed reviews in London. The show is likely to undergo changes before heading to the Great White Way, so who knows what it will look like when it comes our way. Anyone here seen it on the West End?
Rumor is that Alice Ripley will be touring with the Next to Normal cast, which is exciting news for those who haven’t been able to make the trip to NYC! As to the Broadway replacement, producers are holding open Equity auditions. Wonder who they’ll find to replace her…
The new tribe for Broadway’s Hair has taken over and the OBC headed to the West End. Led by Diana DeGarmo, Ace Young, and Kyle Riabko, this American-Idol heavy group seems to be just as energetic and excited as their predecessors.
Emily Padgett (Grease, Legally Blonde) has succeeded Tony nominee Kerry Butler as Sherrie in the Broadway production of Rock of Ages. Derek St. Pierre and Katie Webber (Memphis) will join the cast on March 22.
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury are leaving A Little Night Music on June 20 but the show will run through through Aug 29. It will be interesting to see who ends up stepping in for the last couple of months and if the show will last after its stars’ departure.
Karl Kenzler and Megan Osterhaus joined the Broadway company of Mary Poppins on March 1 in the roles of George Banks and Winifred Banks, succeeding Jeff Binder and Rebecca Luker.
Cast Album and DVD Releases
The cast album for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies is now out in stores.
And the cast recording for The Addams Family, which opens on Broadway on April 8, will be available in June 2010.
“Glee” – Air dates TBA – Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel
“Ugly Betty” – Wed, Mar 17 – Aaron Tveit and Carol Kane
“The View” – Thur, March 25 – Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna
“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” – Tues, March 16 – Hugh Jackman
“The Today Show” – Wed, March 17 – Riverdance performance
All About Me – March 18
This Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein spectacle got a lot of buzz when the two stars originally claimed to be mounting similarly titled solo shows, but since then buzz about the show has died down. Written by Christopher Durang and directed by Casey Nicholaw, the show seems to be testing what happens when you put four big personalities in a room together. Having seen each of their creations in the past, hopes are high that together they’ll pull off something wonderfully fun.
Come Fly Away – March 25
There’s been next to no buzz about Twyla Tharp’s Frank Sinatra inspired musical, which will feature a lot of dancing and a 19-piece band. Burn the Floor, which just closed on Broadway, proved that there is an audience for ballroom dance, and Mamma Mia has shown that audiences love a good jukebox musical, so maybe it’ll work; it’ll either flop hard and fast, or go on to become the next Contact. Let’s hope its the latter.
The Addams Family – April 8
Featuring Broadway vets Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, writers of this new show penned an original storyline, rather than attempting to adapt the movie or TV show – a very smart move considering the limited successes of some recent adaptations. The musical will likely need to enjoy a long run in order to recoup its investment and from what they’ve shown so far – it looks like they may have a shot.
Million Dollar Quartet – April 11
This Chicago transfer is hoping to capitalize on the jukebox musical phenomenon. Starring the four Broadway newcomers who originated their roles in Chicago, this musical tells the tale of a jam session that included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Audiences and critics in Chicago adored this production largely due to the performances of the four leads – so Broadway theater-goers can count themselves lucky that producers are willing to take a risk on four unknowns.
La Cage Aux Folles – April 18
Douglas Hodge will recreate his Oliver Award-winning performance in this UK transfer alongside Kelsey Grammer. Many were startled to see the show is returning to Broadway so soon (the last production of La Cage aux Folles closed in June of 2005), but the Mernier Chocolate Factory has only sent over great productions in the past, so there’s little doubt this will be anything but a wonderful treat.
American Idiot – April 20
After playing to packed houses in Berkley, this show, created by a phenomenal production team of Broadway big hitters, has developed a devoted following and earned a reputation for being something entirely new. With music from the Grammy Award-winning album, a fantastic, youthful cast and an audience among the Next to Normal and Spring Awakening crowd, this show has only to live up to half of the hype to become a success.
Sondheim on Sondheim – April 22
A collection of fantastic actors (Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, Michael ARden, Leslie Kritzer and more) will be singing some of Sondheim’s best songs in this tribute to the man. Yes, Sondheim has had lots of musical reviews over the years, but this one may be worth it – if only to see some of these performers live again.
Promises, Promises – April 25
Finally Kristin Chenoweth is making her way back to Broadway! Joining her is another star of the small screen, Sean Hayes. This show isn’t likely to change the course of musical theater, but it is nice to know there will be some lighthearted old-fashioned fare on Broadway.