Come Fly Away is a dazzling, crowd-pleasing new addition to Broadway, largely because it’s a study in near-perfect pairings. Primarily, there’s the matching of creator Twyla Tharp’s graceful, emotive choreography with the iconic, pleasing musical stylings of Frank Sinatra. Just as she did with Billy Joel’s works in her 2003 Tony-winning stage hit Movin’ Out, Tharp uses the legendary songs Sinatra made famous as a soundtrack for a loose, tangled tale of several romances told through dance. But while Movin’ Out was a sweeping, decades-spanning story compacted into two acts, Come Fly Away is pointedly more intimate, concerning the dalliances of one evening in a nightclub — a fitting location for a Sinatra-centric show.
Unlike Movin’ Out, which featured a singer belting out the Piano Man’s favorites, nearly all of the Sinatra songs in Come Fly Away — from ”Come Fly With Me” to ”Makin’ Whoopee” to, of course, ”New York, New York” — are recordings of the famed crooner accompanied by a 16-piece on-stage orchestra. Honestly, would you really want anyone else to sing these tunes? True, vocalist Hilary Gardner sings a couple of numbers and even ”duets” with Sinatra, but her presence doesn’t distract at all from the show’s tribute nature to The Voice. (Rosena M. Hill sings at some performances.)
The other stellar pairings in Come Fly Away are the four sets of lead dancers who inject Tharp’s choreography with a healthy dose of muscle and passion. You’ve got the fiery, on-again, off-again couple; the cute waiter who woos the shy girl; the sexy pair; and the just-for-the-night twosome. The two standouts are Karine Plantadit, who plays the zesty Kate, and Charlie Neshyba-Hodges, who’s the short, cute waiter and the show’s main comic relief. Plantadit easily vacillates between playing Kate with the ferociousness of an animal and allowing herself to be thrown limply around the stage like a rag-doll. (Her facial expressions, if you’re lucky enough to be close enough to enjoy them, are a show within themselves.) Neshyba-Hodges, meanwhile, is the crowd-pleaser, using his often intentionally fumbling dance moves as a jovial form of physical comedy that’s undeniably fun.
Come Fly Away succeeds because, as its title blatantly suggests, it’s escapism at its best. What’s not to like about watching beautiful people dance to Sinatra tunes? You can’t help but smile. (And as a bonus, halfway through the show the dancers start stripping practically to their underwear. Jackpot!) The plot is loose — who’s with who? why is any of this happening? why is the waiter taking off his pants? — but such details hardly seem to matter. By the final two numbers, ”My Way” and ”New York, New York,” Come Fly Away becomes a moving, delicious love note to Ol’ Blue Eyes. A-