The new Twyla Tharp dance show, formerly titled Come Fly With Me, now bearing the moniker Come Fly Away, will begin performances at the Marquis Theater in March. Similar to Tharp's previous two efforts -- the successful Movin' Out and the disastrous The Times They Are a-Changin' -- Come Fly Away is a songbook show, this time featuring the music of Frank Sinatra.
Although the show itself is relatively new, Tharp actually has a long history with the music of Frank Sinatra, having created numerous pieces set to Sinatra recordings in the early 1980s, including Nine Sinatra Songs and Sinatra Suite, the latter with Mikhail Baryshnikov. But have no fear, musicians' union, for this won't be another Contact, a show that came under fire for eschewing an orchestra in favor of a piped-in jukebox soundtrack. Come Fly Away does indeed utilize recordings of the late Sinatra's voice, but the vocal tracks are backed by a live on-stage band playing some newly created orchestrations.
The show received some fairly solid reviews during its recent engagement at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, at which time it was still known as Come Fly With Me. Charles Isherwood of the New York Times called the show "exhilarating." Wendell Brock of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said "dazzling." And Frank Rizzo of Variety wrote that "even at this early stage" the show is "vibrant, engaging and, at times, thrilling." With notices like that, the producers would be fools not to bring the show to New York. Right?
Not so fast. As my friend Ken Davenport recently wrote about on his blog, The Producer's Perspective, out-of-town raves do not a Broadway blockbuster make. Ragtime got very strong reviews when it played DC, and now the Broadway production is closing at a significant loss. Finian's Rainbow got terrific notices during its Encores run last season, only to meet a similar fate to Ragtime. Perhaps the most extreme example is the now-legendary Glory Days, which came to New York almost entirely on the strength of Peter Marks' gushing review in The Washington Post. During previews, Glory Days struggled to garner an audience larger than 25% of the house, and then promptly folded on opening night. Whoops.Will Come Fly Away deliver on the promise of its advance notices? Will the new Twyla Tharp show be another Movin' Out or another The Times They Are a-Changin'? If it's the former, expect to see more from Twyla on Broadway. If it's the latter, well, it's probably back to the barre.