Putting together a top-class show as complex as ‘Come Fly With Me’ takes many talented people – all striving to produce their finest work. But how do you begin? And what sparks the whole creative process? That usually is down to one person: a man or woman who develops and works something out in their mind, based on a germ of an idea in their imagination. Martyn Smith, the show director of ‘Come Fly With Me’, is such a man.
I met Martyn Smith one lunchtime for a ‘menu’ between rehearsals of the shows he’s directing at the moment. Suffice it to say that Mr Smith is a very busy man indeed and during our very quick lunch I could see that he was sneaking discreet glances at his wristwatch. As he is show director of ‘Pirates’ and ‘Pirates Uncut’ as well as his new project ‘Come Fly With Me’, you don’t have to be a genius to work out that his time is precious.
I asked him: “Why the 50’s New York theme and swing music?” He replied with a shrug of his shoulders: “I have always loved the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jnr and others of that era and I could see the possibilities in staging a big classy show linked to that sort of music here in Mallorca.” As Smith is in his thirties, his knowledge of this particular musical genre is quite remarkable; as we chatted it was clear that he understands its style, its rhythms, its phrasing. He also recognises the ability of great music to fire the imagination and, more than any other art form, to take you back to a certain time and place.
As part of his dual role as show director of ‘Pirates’, Smith regularly visits places such as Las Vegas and New York with Globo Balear president Jacques Sasson – taking in shows, watching new trends, observing what does and doesn’t work and filing his thoughts away to be dusted off and retrieved if they should be needed.
Perhaps it should be no surprise then that Smith had been turning over in his mind, for at least the past five years, an idea of linking his beloved “swing sound” to a major show here in Mallorca. The “hook” for him was New York City, few people who visit the ‘Big Apple’ are unimpressed by the experience and Smith was no exception.
I remarked that assembling a show of the size and scope of ‘Come Fly With Me’ in his head must have required a long gestation period – which prompted him to laugh: “Not really; it was five years ago that I first put together these elements in my mind and within days I had it – most of the concept, that is.” Surprisingly, Martyn Smith had the concept, the show, the lot, playing on a loop in his mind’s eye very quickly: it was to be about a day in the life of a group of New Yorkers; from stockbrokers to barman, bums, construction workers, and assorted other characters. It would include acrobatics, dance, and spectacular action allied to great, great music. He continued: “I was determined that ‘Come Fly With Me’ would be shaped, designed and produced to entertain a grown-up sophisticated audience, who know what’s good, and would expect to sample it when they go out for an evening.”
Smith was also aware that the 1950’s is an era that has become very fashionable.
The swing music, the cool look, and the style and sophistication of that time have spawned many a retro glance at an era when people dressed up a little when they went out; a time when “going to a show” was a real event, seeing a classy singer and a fabulous show with your spouse and friends, knowing it was not going to end in a scruffy bar swigging beer from a bottle!
Smith entered the long process of recruiting the very best artists in the world for the show. He has now assembled an international cast of more than 35 men and women – a group that includes world champion acrobats, brilliant dancers, specialist artistes and sensational singers.
For instance, Chris Mann is one of the world’s foremost interpreters of the music of Frank Sinatra. He had taken the Sinatra role in the hugely successful ‘Rat Pack’ musical and has toured the USA, Great Britain, Germany, France and Switzerland in that show; here, he narrates the show through the voice of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. I asked Martyn how important it was to get the right man for the Sinatra role: “Very important, essential even. Chris Mann ‘is’ Sinatra – close your eyes and if you listen to him you will agree that Mann has ‘the man’ in his soul – however, the bonus for me is that Chris has Sinatra’s look as well. The thing is though, this is not a Sinatra tribute gig, we have a complete show where every segment stands out by itself, ‘Come Fly With Me’ has a big cast and every scene has been designed as a feast for the audience’s eyes as well as its ears.”
As we talked, he used the words “high production standards” on a number of occasions. Why was that – and doesn’t that mean very expensive? Smith gave me a tight little smile of recognition: “Look Frank, this show was never going to be cheap to stage, what would be the point? The audience needs to feel that they are in New York City, they need to experience the vitality, the edgy nature of the place; we are using some state-of-the-art audio and visual techniques that will blow people away. We’ve built great sets that will be familiar to those who have seen iconic photographs of the city and this all costs money – I have to say that Jacques has been totally behind me on this one.” Clearly Martyn Smith wants the very best for his brainchild; after all, he has been with it from its birth. I finally gave in to Martyn’s desire to get back to rehearsals and put just one last question to him: “Are you happy with the show, Martyn?” He paused for a moment then scraped back his chair: “Yes, very happy, so happy I would even pay to watch it.” With that he was gone.