Tharp musical to shutter in September

Producers have grounded Broadway’s “Come Fly Away,” the Twyla Tharp-Frank Sinatra dance-ical that never managed to sustain its sales altitude. Show will shutter Labor Day weekend.

News isn’t much of a surprise to most legiters, who have watched the production’s attendance erode throughout the summer. For the past four weeks, the musical has played to auds that have averaged less than 50% of capacity.

Weekly sales swelled into the $900,000 range shortly after “Come Fly Away” opened March 25, but have since seen an overall decline. Last week the tuner logged $574,485, and has so far grossed about $13.9 million.

Despite the fact that “Come Fly” has not experienced a significant uptick from the summer tourism season, the show will hold out until Labor Day — after which the back-to-school distractions of the fall traditionally cause a precipitous drop in Main Stem sales across the board.

“Come Fly” is the third dance-based Broadway musical from choreographer Tharp. “Movin’ Out,” her 2002 outing featuring the music of Billy Joel, was a critical success and ran for three years, whereas the Bob Dylan-themed 2006 follow-up, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” tanked after two months.

“Come Fly Away,” which will have played for about six months when it closes, lands somewhere between the two extremes. The production elicited its fair share of positive critical response, which helped pump sales for a bit, and in later months Tony attention helped keep the musical in the spotlight. Scoring two noms, the production got a national TV showcase with an excerpt presented during the June kudocast.

The pairing of Tharp with wide-appeal Sinatra tunes seemed a solid contribution to the musical’s commercial viability — although evidently not enough to keep its box office figures consistently aloft.

Musical centers on the denizens of a nightclub and the tumultuous shifts in their relationships over a single night. Production matched a live orchestra with recorded Sinatra vocals (as well as a live vocalist) on songs including “My Way,” “That’s Life” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”

With Tharp’s name established regionally thanks to the three-year national tour of “Movin’ Out,” “Come Fly Away” could still prove an attraction on the road. National tour is skedded to launch in Chicago in May 2011.

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