By Karen Isaacs
Combine four talented singers/performers, a terrific musical trio backing them up and a truckload of classic American popular songs, and you have the formula for a very enjoyable evening in the theater.
My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, now at Ivoryton Playhouse through Sunday, April 9, is exactly that. Practically all music.
So why quibble that most of the songs could be in a review honoring Peggy Lee, Fred Astaire or Judy Garland? They are great songs.
First of all you will find all the Sinatra standards from the ‘50s on up: “Strangers in the Night,” “Love and Marriage,” “All the Way,” “That’s Life,” “New York, New York” and more. Even some of the less worthy numbers are included. So the Capital and Reprise years are well represented.
Since Sinatra recorded over 1300 songs, not all are identified solely or mainly with Sinatra. The classic songs of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Jerome Kern may remind you of other performers.
But that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the show. My one quibble is that very few of Sinatra’s early hits – those that came during his stint with the Big Bands, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James – are included. These songs such as “Oh Look at Me Now,” “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” “Everything Happens to Me,” could have replaced some of the songs less specifically identified with Sinatra. Also missing are some of the big hits from early in his solo career – “Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week,” “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night” and many others.
But the songs included are worth it.
The show was created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, who wrote the minimal dialogue that ties the various song segments together. Sometimes it seems forced with attempts at humor and other times it simply drops interesting factoids about Sinatra.
The songs are grouped in various categories – from Broadway, to a city medley, a young love medley, a moon medley and others, ending, appropriately enough, with a “Survivor’s Medley,”
The four performers do not attempt to imitate Sinatra, though the two men do adopt a few of his more famous gestures, including how he wore his hat.
Instead each segment allows each performer a solo number plus an occasional duet or quartet. Each segment also includes a dance interlude of some sort. The performers do attempt to create characters for their songs, but they are necessarily limited.
The success of this show depends on the performers, director/choreographer and musical director. Here Ivoryton has found talented people.
The show is directed and choreographed by Joyce Chittick and Rick Faugno, who appeared at Ivoryton in Fingers and Toes. Faugno is a talented dancer who, with Vanessa Sonon, does most of the dances.
Lauren Gire and Sonon are the two women in the cast. Gire plays a slightly older, more sophisticated person with a ladylike demeanor. Her voice has a richness that is welcome in her songs. Sonon, projects a livelier demeanor and a more humorous manner.
Faugno has a light baritone/tenor voice that works well with the variety of music and contrasts nicely to Josh Powell’s richer, deeper baritone.
The four change off into various combinations: Powell, Faugno and Gire are terrific in “Here’s to the Losers” and Powell and Sonon are great in “You Make Me Feel So Young.”
I particularly liked the quartet in “Indian Summer” and “Dream” – one of the few songs from the big band era.
The set by William Russell Stark gives a cocktail lounge/bar to the left leaving much of the stage available for both singing and dancing. The costumes recall the 1950s; white dinner jackets for the men in the first act and tuxes in the second. The women wear short cocktail dresses – one very bouffant—in the first act and long gowns in the second. I only wished the white dinner jacket that Powell wore, fitted him better. Christopher Hoyt handled the lighting, creating various moods and sound designer Tate R. Burmeister did a good job balancing the combo the rear of the stage with the singers.
Special praise must be given to musical director Andy Hudson and his fellow combo members — Matt McCauley on bass and Gary Ribchinsky on drums.
My Way is tuneful evening of theater well performed by this talented group. You will enjoy it.
It is at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, through Sunday, April 9. For tickets call 860-767-7318 or visit ivorytonplayhouse.org.
This content is courtesy Shore Publications and ziip06.com