The show is a series of dances performed to 33 songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. Through the wonders of modern technology, Sinatra’s superimposed voice sings most of the tunes, accompanied by a live 18 piece-band. The dancers include Tharp stalwarts like John Selya, who won a Tony nomination for his performance in her 2002 Billy Joel show Movin’ Out, and veterans of other major modern dance companies like Holley Farmer, who performed with Merce Cunningham for 12 years, and Karine Plantadit, who was a soloist with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for seven.
It’s hard to complain about listening to Sinatra sing standards by Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and Sammy Cahn (just hearing them was enough to satisfy my husband K) or about watching beautiful bodies leap, twist, and curl around one another. But what did make me cranky is that there wasn’t anything else. Specifically, no storyline to tie it all together. Instead, we get the thinnest conceit: four couples take turns flirting, fighting, making up in a night club setting. Late in the evening, they start symbolically “revealing” themselves to one another by taking off most of their clothes. I was looking for a different kind of nakedness.
The show is hobbled in other ways too. Because the Sinatra songs are basically all about three minutes in length, they just chug along one after another without any variation in the overall pacing. And since Tharp uses the same steps in dance after dance, they start looking less amazing than they are and the individual numbers blur into one another. When the 10th song “It’s Alright With Me” introduced a couple of new moves, I was so grateful to get something different to look at that I almost cheered.
The creative team hasn’t pushed itself either. James Youmans' set looks flimsy—a shaky table (I held my breath every time a dancer climbed on top of it) a couple of chairs, a bar and a bandstand. Meanwhile, Katherine Roth’s costumes look as though they were borrowed from an Off-the-Strip Vegas revue, although not as sturdily made. Poor John Selya ripped his pants during one leap and had to dance with his underwear peeking through for most of the first act at the performance K and I attended.