“Come Fly Away”
Lead dancer Ashley Blair Fitzgerald gives a glimpse into her life as a member of the smash-hit show.
A new Broadway musical based on the music of Frank Sinatra has taken America by storm.
The creative pairing behind the hit song and dance sensation, “Come Fly Away,” may just be made in heaven.
Come Fly Away, now touring around the country, pairs the music of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself with the choreography of Tony Award-winning, legendary dance choreographer Twyla Tharp.
Lead dancer Ashley Blair Fitzgerald says Tharp’s choreography helps audience and dancer alike experience Sinatra’s music in a whole new way.
“The show has a 14-piece band, and to have all that right there, where they match Frank’s voice, you just hear so much more of the music than you ever knew was there,” Fitzgerald says. “To dance a story to the music, you hear it a different way.”
Fitzgerald is one of the elite dancers headlining the show; they are supported by a bevy of ensemble dancers.
“It is a story that takes place in one night in a nightclub, and it follows the relationships between four couples,” she says.
The pairings range from an innocent, unscathed young couple to those seeking a purely physical bonding. Fitzgerald’s character, Kate, is in a tempestuous, somewhat ambiguous long-term relationship.
“It kind of shows the trials and tribulations that go on with throwing all these people into the same nightclub,” she says. “At the end of the night, you walk away feeling extremely happy; the music and the choreography do that to you.”
Born to dance
For Fitzgerald, the road to “Come Fly Away” was paved with countless pairs of ballet slippers.
“I started dancing when I was 5,” she says. “My older sister was a dancer, so I just kind of followed in her footsteps.”
A top ballerina by high school, she began participating in dance camps with companies like ABT and the Joffrey, as well as musical theater camps. She has studied with Ann Reinking, Gwen Verdon, Ben Vereen and Gregory Hines.
Fitzgerald went to the Boston Conservatory as a dance major, and then began touring with “Fosse,” which proved to be a critical decision in her life: her connections from “Fosse” determined her career trajectory, she says.
An instant fit
When it came to trying out for “Come Fly Away,” the role seemed like an instant fit—something that doesn’t happen often in one’s career, Fitzgerald says.
“I just went in and auditioned like regular,” she says. “They taught us a couple numbers from the show, and when I was there at the audition…sometimes you can see if they like you or if they don’t like you. It felt like it was heading toward a good place with the creative team. They told me right there that I got the job, which is not normal. Twyla knew right away.”
Fitzgerald says she was incredibly humbled to work with Tharp, who is still heavily involved in the touring production of the show despite her hectic
“You want to work as hard as you possibly can for her, because you know that she’s really very right about everything,” she says. “It might not be what you want to hear, but it’s right.”
Fitzgerald also describes her experiences developing her character from the ground up.
Tharp “really wanted you to rid your mind of whatever you thought it was supposed to be, to just learn the steps and go from there,” she says.
Fitzgerald partook in nearly two months of training and preparation before going onstage with her role in “Come Fly Away,” but the training never stops, she says.
“This show has challenged me in that I really have to take care of my body. I’m young in terms of what ‘normal life’ is, but for dancers, you use your body so much. We’re athletes, and we really have to take care of ourselves.”
Fitzgerald is looking forward to getting married this summer, but anything beyond that is a bit too far out to grasp, she says.
“I just want to continue to grow; as an artist, we never know what’s going on six months down the road,” she says. “I constantly do as best I can in the job I’m in right now, and make sure that when I leave this job, I’m better than when I started it.”
Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.