|Photo by Marc von Borstel|
Director–choreographer Twyla Tharp is describing the four couples in Come Fly Away, her romantic confection of a Broadway musical set to the smooth sounds of Frank Sinatra.
There's bumbling Marty (Charlie Neshyba-Hodges) and bashful Betsy (Laura Mead): "They see each other, fall in love, and the world transpires to pull them apart." Hank (Keith Roberts) and Kate (Karine Plantadit) are on-again, off-again — in other words, "dysfunctional" and "really f***ed up." The cocky, fedora-wearing Sid (John Selya) and seductress Babe (Holley Farmer) have a "yin and yang between them — this attraction–repulsion." And Chanos (Matthew Dibble), dejected after being rejected by Babe, rebounds with easygoing Slim (Rika Okamoto): "For tonight, they're together."
But there's a fifth couple she omits — and while you won't spot them spinning, swinging, or sliding across the stage of the Marquis Theatre, make no mistake: Without them, Come Fly Away wouldn't, well, fly. And that's Twyla Tharp and Frank Sinatra.
With Come Fly Away, Tharp has "flipped the tables": "Instead of having the man demand independence, I made it the woman. The women in this have just as much to say as the men. "Vocalist Hilary Gardner will be live on stage; backing her and a recorded Chairman of the Board — what, you expected a Sinatra sound-alike? — is a 19-piece band, employing original orchestrations by the likes of Nelson Riddle and Billy May. In total, Come Fly Away comprises some half-dozen tunes from the singer's five-decade career.
"It's not like we're doing the life story of Frank," says Tharp. It's about what Tharp calls a "much bigger world." As for the fact that Come Fly Away gazes dreamily at that world through rose-colored glasses, the creator is making no apologies. "Oh, my goodness — could we do something for people just to let them, yes, escape…where all they have to do is enjoy it?" Tharp asks rhetorically. "Could we do that? Yeah, we can do that."