Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Come Fly Away With Green Day?

NYC -- Normally blase theater professionals went all gaga twice Tuesday, first for a regal appearance by the choreographer/writer/director Twyla Tharp and then for a charming sit-down with Broadway's newest surprise -- Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong.

Former dancers now in arts management clogged the front row for Tharp, just as their younger colleagues did later on for Armstrong.

Tharp, of course, helped start the most recent trend toward "Rockway" with her work on "Movin' Out," based on the works of Billy Joel. Following a short run with a show using songs by Bob Dylan, she's back with "Come Fly Away," which puts Frank Sinatra on Broadway and is billed as "A new musical love affair."

Sinatra apparently came to see one of Tharp's earlier works using one of his songs.

"I cried. I want to be a dancer," Sinatra supposedly said.

"You are a dancer," Tharp said she told him. You're great in all the movies. (Pause.) But I wouldn't quit my day job."

Director Michael Mayer, who most recently did "Spring Awakening," and composer and orchestrator Tom Kitt worked with Armstrong to turn the band's 2004 Grammy Award-winning sixth CD "American Idiot" into a new Broadway musical, supplemented by a few songs from the group's latest recording "21st Century Breakdown."

Here are some random quotes and observations from those two sessions:

American Idiot

"I wanted to create a different texture for the theater, but you still felt it was Green Day." -- Kitt

"I was in the middle of 'Spring Awakening' and I was listening to the album a lot. I started to hear a very clear narrative." -- Mayer

"We always thought it should be staged somehow -- film or whatever." -- Armstrong

"I wanted to show the band I would take care of their baby." -- Kitt

"I looked to The Beatles and George Martin … 'Yesterday' … you always knew it was The Beatles." -- Kitt

"The record was perfect … The extra narration was inside the music -- even in the drum beats, the guitar breaks." -- Mayer

"I had no preconceptions about Broadway " -- Armstrong

"This probably has been the greatest experience of my life." -- Armstrong

"There's something happening here, and it's hopeful and exciting." -- Mayer
Come Fly Away

Tharp on the origins of the musical:

"We set out to find some of the narrative he created in the great American songbook." -- Tharp

"We tell the story through the deed because words lie." -- Tharp

Tharp on working with familiar dancers:

"You love them. You know what they can do. You can try things with them because of trust."

Dancers on working with Tharp and with Sinatra material:

"We call each other gladiators. It's a different level of focus, a different level of commitment than I've ever experienced." -- Karine Plantadi

"He [Sinatra] is a male artist who can care … without being wimpy, who can show strength without being arrogant. I wanna dance like that guy sings. … I didn't know that before two minutes ago." -- John Selva.

-- MKilgore

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