I’m a wee bit distracted today because I can’t stop singing “Rock Me Sexy Jesus.” (Really, go watch the trailer for Hamlet 2. It’ll make your Monday.) It’s just going to be that kind of day. I can tell already.
Did your grade school have a morning show? Mine did. Every morning, they’d turn on the TV and three awkward kids would sit in front of a crayon and construction paper decorated backdrop while haltingly reading from the papers before them. “Today’s lunch special is chicken fried steak. The girl’s bathroom by the gym is closed due to flooding. We will hold a can drive on next Tuesday.” The writing was worse than that of Ghost Whisperer, but only barely.
I feel like one of those kids at the moment. Just picture me with a giant Kelly-McGillis-in-Top-Gun perm and the thickest brown plastic glasses you can imagine, trying to read the following lines around my braces and hot pink rubber bands. “Hello and good morning, Buggers. Just a few quick announcements before we get started. If you have not already signed up to win a disturbingly phallic concrete mushroom, you have until Wednesday at midnight to do so. The members of the Twilight fan club are meeting after school at Craftastrophe to discuss the pros and cons of wearing shrinky dinks as jewelry. Today’s lunch special is Brunswick Stew.”
Now that THAT’s out of the way, I can proceed with bitching about my weekend. I spent over five hours on the phone with India. I stared at SQL (Stupid Querulous Lifesucking) files for at least another six hours. Don’t get me started on how much time I spent googling for cheat sheets and clues (then getting distracted by hover cats in action and my boyfriend Ben Folds). It’s official, I am technologically challenged. Thirty some hours later and I am in exactly the same place I was when I started – nowhere. But there’s always a silver lining! I can now do a wicked IT guy in India impersonation.
Despite all the frustration, there was one shining moment of joy – FREE TICKETS! I know you’re probably tired of hearing me ramble on and on about how much I lurv free tickets, but I’m worried that if I stop talking about them, I’ll stop getting them. So I’ll state for the record yet again – if you find yourself in need of a date to for any type of performance – even an artsy piece involving a sumo wrestler clad in a superman outfit crawling over wooden alphabet blocks and bubble wrap while humming the greatest hits of Air Supply, I’m your girl. I won’t say no. For reals.
Saturday night, I had the chance to see the new Twyla Tharp musical, Come Fly Away. She’s the same gal that brought Broadway Moving Out and The Times They Are a-Changin’. Her shtick is to take the music of a specific artist (Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, and now Frank Sinatra) and cobble together a story told only by the lyrics and the dance – no dialogue.
First, it’s Frank frickin’ Sinatra, people. Twyla is no fool – the girl knows her demographic. Everyone knows New Yorkers love Frank – even Met’s fans. But these Jersey peeps take it up a notch. Sure, we love our Bruce and our Bon Jovi, but Frank is in a whole other league. You know he was born right here in Hoboken, right? Granted he’s know to have said, “When I was there, I just wanted to get the hell out,” but we still love him. (FYI Hoboken was also the site of the first brewery in America AND where the first Oreo was sold. We’ve given more to the world than just the Cake Boss, you know.)
I made it to the theater before my date (Thanks Joy!) and headed straight for the bathroom. Of course there was a line…and it was all animal print, long nails, and big hair. I giggled as I listened to thick accents in conversation. “Whadyas means yas naught frum Westchester? Yous looks like yas frum Westchester. Yas frickin’ kiddin me, right?”
I found Joy and we took our seats. Two dark suited gentlemen and their sequined spouses filled the seats in front of us. The older of the pair had already launched into conversation. “So good to meet yous. I do Johnny’s books. He says you and me should tawlk.” Before the other guy could respond, the older man bolted upright and pointed towards someone closer to the stage. “HeyOhhh!” he shouted. “I sees you, Tony!” It was like having our own special pre-show (and no, I don’t mean the milky white discharge before the actual show – wrong crowd).
The musical itself was crazy. Frank was crooning and bodies were flying as an entire theater filled with stereotypical Yankees sang along to Frank’s classics. I spent almost as much time giggling as I did wincing at the things those poor dancers did to their bodies.
Charlie Neshyba-Hodges (role of Marty) was a real standout for me. He was small, compact, and bald – like the ever adorable Scott Hamilton without the skates. Like Scotty, Charlie infused his every movement with charm and humor. After just one graceful tumble, I found myself missing his charismatic ass any time the other performers took the stage.
There was a fight scene choreographed to “That’s Life” that genuinely made me squirm with discomfort. I’ve never followed dance very closely, and had never realized the medium was capable of communicating so much emotion and anger. I found myself genuinely terrified for the gal and wanting to smack the guy for being so violent. I had to consciously remind myself that it was only a performance, so that I didn’t storm out of the theater.
At intermission, Joy and I looked at each other and slowly exhaled. “Yowza – that fight scene,” I said.
Joy (a dancer herself) responded, “Twyla is mean. You can’t do that ninety minutes at a time. Eight shows a week? Bodies break! That’s just cruel.”
“What was with the random humping thing during the guy’s ‘September of My Years’ solo?”
“Oh that’s Twyla’s crotch shot. Everybody gets one. I always forget about them until I see them.”
Ladies and Gentleman, if I EVER get a one woman show on Broadway, I’m hiring Twyla to choreograph my crotch shot. You heard it hear first.
Then the second act happened. I felt like I was watching a dance version of Caligula – clothes were flying, bodies were writhing, and the Yankees stopped singing. Just as I leaned in to ask Joy if it was safe to leap without a dance belt, the first bass notes of “Take Five” filled the theater.
Now, I’m the first to admit I’m a little over zealous on music stuff. I’m a junkie. I’ve wasted the majority of my addled mind on memorizing lyrics and discographies that will never, ever be useful in the real world. I often have skewed views of what qualifies as “common musical knowledge.” That being said, who the fuck thinks “Take Five” is Sinatra? I spent at least the next three songs mumbling about shitty music supervision and completely ignoring the show. (I genuinely hope I’m wrong. Please tell me there’s some link between Sinatra and Take Five that I’m not aware of so I can be less horrified. Please. Really please.)
Things got better briefly when Karine Plantadit (role of Kate) danced her depiction of drunk with such aplomb that I physically felt nauseous. I refuse to believe it’s possible to portray “shit faced” so well and NOT suffer a hangover.
From there on out, it just got boring. The finale was of course “My Way” running immediately into “New York, New York.” It felt like Twyla just quit. I could imagine her sitting there in a black leotard and saying, “Oh fuck it, I’m done. I don’t care how it ends, I just want this shit off my plate. Hell, I don’t care if you randomly throw in some break dancing (which PS they did – and it was WEIRD) amongst the pirouettes. Just work in whatever Frank songs we missed and lift the girl’s into the air. Done.”
The audience didn’t care one bit. They all sang “My Way” with strong emotion and weak voices. The HeyOhhh foursome swayed to the beat as a giant disco ball descended from the ceiling. Joy elbowed me and I realized I was laughing out loud.
That said, I still have to admit the dancing was phenomenal – at least to my my non-dance trained eye. I sure as hell couldn’t do anything that physically demanding for five minutes, not to mention two solid hours. I’m almost as bendy as melba toast. Those dancers were crazy athletes at the very least. I just wish Twyla had given them a real finale to celebrate all their hard work instead of tacking a dance recital on the end. Most importantly, I wish she’d saved Take Five for a new Brubeck musical. Grrr.