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.