Published on January 23rd, 2011 | by Greg0
Sinatra Dance With Me: Where’s The Love?
Twyla Tharp is one of the biggest dance choreographers on the planet. She’s worked on Hollywood movies, won a Tony and two Emmys, brought multiple productions to Broadway, including a well-liked Billy Joel musical (as well as one for Bob Dylan that was poorly reviewed)… but some of her best work has been framed around the music of Frank Sinatra. And, as one of our writers is both a fan of Ms. Tharp and a professional dance instructor, it made perfect sense for us to drop by the new show during our stay in Las Vegas as we attended the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month.
The production started it’s run on December 12th, Sinatra’s birthday, and is exclusively showing at the Wynn Hotel. And though Sinatra provides all of the vocals, the music is backed by a 17-piece live big band, a nice touch that added some energy. Twenty-five of Old Blue Eyes’ songs are condensed into an 80 minute, single act production, and many of the biggest hits are there- “My Way”, “That’s Life”, “One For My Baby”, and “I’ve Got The World on a String” for starters. And unlike some Vegas shows, it’s family-friendly, though one number does stray a bit into slightly-questionable territory.
The show actually has an odd pedigree- originally created under the name “Come Fly Away” as a Broadway production, this version has been altered a bit, tightened up to be comfortable without an intermission, but retains most of the cast. Fans of Frank Sinatra can enjoy the show simply for the well-arranged music, but younger attendees will want something more- a show. And dance-focused shows are a tougher sell, especially considering the competition in Vegas from new-fangled Cirque, Cirque-clones, and high-powered magic acts.
Tharp’s productions can thrill- her work with Mikhail Baryshnikov is still some of the most powerful dance out there- but much in entertainment and dance has changed in the last couple of decades. The show retains some of her signature style, and moments were in fact quite stirring. But those moments were unfortunately lost in a shuffle of fairly forgettable numbers. Most of “Sinatra Dance With Me” is fairly glossy, well-produced and designed, but the overall impression is one of unevenness. With only the barest set of plots and nondescript characters, minimal costumes or sets or changes, it is left for the audience to connect to the dances themselves, usually performed in couples or trios rather than big numbers.
Two of the roles and actors (Marty and Betsy, played by Charlie Neshyba-Hodges and Laura Mead) were standouts, leaving us looking forward to their next touching and funny scenes. But unfortunately, most of the show moved from one tone to another a bit jarringly, offering no clear themes to draw you in. The dancers themselves moved well, mostly absorbing, though the all-important chemistry wasn’t there for some of the couples. And while it’s important to touch on universal themes- loss, rejection, seduction- some of the show was a bit cliched and even off-putting, since so many of the characters were unfaithful.
Sinatra may have been a crooner with plenty to say about lust and desire, and Vegas may be built on those very emotions. But the ultimate end and beginning, what we deeply want as an audience made up mostly of couples, should be obvious: love.
Sinatra Dance With Me is playing Monday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m each evening, and tickets run $69 to $89.