Christmas My Way – A Sinatra Holiday Bash

The El Portal Theatre – North Hollywood, CA
Review By Steven Stanley

Memories of holidays spent listening to the song stylings of Ol’ Blue Eyes come back to life in Christmas My Way – A Sinatra Holiday Bash!, now entertaining audiences at North Hollywood’s historic El Portal Theater.

Featuring over two-dozen songs, seasonal and otherwise, all of them recorded at one time or another by Frank Sinatra during his sixty-year career, Christmas My Way stars Broadway vets Jason Graae, Heather Lee, and Beth Malone and the next-best-thing to the Man From Hoboken himself, Luca Ellis, the stellar quartet performing to the sounds of Vince di Mura and his swinging three-piece onstage combo.

Opening with “Mistletoe And Holly” (the only Christmas song Sinatra himself co-wrote), Christmas My Way alternates medleys of December favorites like “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” “The Christmas Waltz,” “Silver Bells,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas,” and “Winter Wonderland” with Sinatra standards like “Witchcraft,” “Old Devil Moon,” “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “Night And Day,” and “I Get A Kick Out Of You.”

And what would a Sinatra show be without “That’s Life” and the evening’s encore, “My Way”?

Briskly directed by David Grapes, who co-created Christmas My Way with Todd Olson, the holiday musical revue intersperses show-stopping performances with bits of Sinatra trivia, anecdotes, a joke or two along the way. Oh, and there’s a hilarious audience sing-along to “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”—with new lyrics Sinatra himself might have penned.

As for the cast, it’s hard to imagine a more talented bunch than those onstage at the El Portal.

Los Angeles theatergoers know Graae, Lee, and Malone as among our most treasured musical theater stars. Graae’s impish grin and rich, resonant pipes, Lee’s classic comedienne prettiness and lilting soprano, and dark-haired stunner Malone’s big Broadway belt are as good as it gets, and Broadway’s loss is our fair city’s gain.

As for Ellis, El Portal regulars will surely recall his holiday debut three years ago in A Vegas Holiday! Songs From “Live At The Sahara,” about which this reviewer raved that “heartthrob-handsome Luca Ellis a vocal dead-ringer for Frank Sinatra.” Then came his smash run as a Sinatra-esque crooner in the Edgemar Theatre’s much-extended Hoboken To Hollywood. Thus, it hardly comes as a surprise that the El Portal has brought the debonair six-footer back to headline Christmas My Way, once again giving Frankie more than a run for his money. (Someone give this man a major record deal and his very own Vegas show!)

Christmas My Way looks absolutely sensational on Bruce Goodrich’s gorgeous, Christmas tree-laden set, with more great big multicolored hanging ornaments than I could possibly count, lit to ever-varied perfection by Jeremy Pivnick. Daniel Barsky’s sound design makes everyone sound as great as they look in Gene Barnhart’s stunning costumes.

Di Mura is joined onstage by James Leary III on bass and Jimmy Ford on drums. Dierdre Murphy is production stage manager. Ann Myers is assistant director.

There’s something for nearly everyone in Christmas My Way – A Sinatra Holiday Bash!, whether they be Sinatra fans or musical theater buffs or simply Angelinos in search of a couple of hours of holiday musical cheer.

I had a Christmas ball at this Sinatra Holiday Bash. You will too!

Tribute to Sinatra's Christmas Classics a Holiday Treat at El Portal Review
By Radomir Luza

If you want to hear popular Frank Sinatra Christmas songs, standards and so much more, make your way to Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash running through New Year's Eve at El Portal Theatre in the NoHo Arts District.

The show is presented by Weddington Street Productions in association with Summerwind Productions.

In the history of entertainment in the 20th century, it's tough to find an entertainer who had more influence than Francis Albert Sinatra.

As a singer, Oscar-winning actor, writer, director and producer, Sinatra’s successes and failures, both personal and public, were well-documented.

The Rat Pack, which he organized and performed with, along with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Shirley Maclaine  roamed the stages of Las Vegas and beyond to international acclaim.

Four performers (Luca Ellis, Jason Graae, Heather Lee and Beth Malone) touch on these events in Sinatra’s life while singing, sashaying and strutting through nearly 30 Sinatra classics.

Ol’ Blue Eyes recorded 31 Christmas songs and 22 Christmas albums, but wrote only one Holiday tune, “Mistletoe and Holly.”

Beginning with that number, the show presents two acts of mainly Sinatra Christmas favorites divided into nine sets.

Stand-outs include “Chicago,” sung energetically by Graae, “New York, New York,” performed powerfully by Ellis, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” sung gracefully by the quartet, and “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” performed singularly by Ellis.

“New York Christmas” with holiday classics such as “The Christmas Song,” “Christmas Memories,” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” proves to be the best set of the evening.

The direction by David Grapes II is crisp, free-flowing and imaginative. It allows the four performers to talk and improvise with the audience in-between songs.

The musical direction as well as the musical and vocal arrangements by Vince di Mura are top-notch. They do not miss a beat and capture the spirit and essence of Sinatra, the singer and the man.

There is not one badly performed or arranged song in the program.

Todd Olson’s book is well-conceived and flawlessly delivered. At times touching and moving, it would make Sinatra himself giddy with Christmas pleasure.

Ellis (Man #1) who has mastered the singing style, phrasing and intonation of Sinatra, is a powerhouse performer and crooner. He follows his starring role as Frank Sinatra in the musical Hoboken To Hollywood with a masterful turn here. His solos are the highlight of the show.

Graae (Man #2) is a Broadway performer who has a pleasant voice and a very comical and people-oriented stage presence. He does not miss a beat and puts his heart and soul into every moment on stage.

Lee (Woman #1) steals the show. Her ditzy blonde stage presence belies a powerful voice that adds to the foursome and gives the audience a deeper understanding of whom Sinatra was in private and public.

Malone (Woman #2) betters or equals her portrayal of June Carter Cash on Broadway in Ring Of Fire here with a passionate comprehension of the unique relationship Sinatra had with his audiences and fans. She is a perfect and durable fit.

All in all, Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash possesses more depth, humor and sensitivity than many musicals and plays not simply because of its subject, but because those who created and performed it are inspired, interlocked and re-invented through it. Reviews: CHRISTMAS MY WAY is a Real Holiday Audience Pleaser at the El Portal

By Don Grigware
Monday, December 17, 2012

El Portal Christmas My WayNo finer Christmas present will come your way than Christmas My Way now onstage at the El Portal in NoHo through December 31. Written by David Grapes and Todd Olson who gave us My Way - A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, the show is a delicious combo of Christmas and non-holiday standards made famous by Ol' Blue Eyes.

There's no drama or seriousness to be had. Well, almost! With a bar onstage it's clear that this is a party, so put on your party gear and take a joy ride for two hours with a magnificent quartet of sterling performers: Luca Ellis, Jason Graae, Heather Lee and Beth Malone. They tell some anecdotes about Sinatra, how he recorded 31 Christmas hits, the most memorable about his relationship with Ava Gardner and how losing her sent him on a Christmas drinking binge in 1952. That's about as serious as it gets. There's a silly parody of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas as only funnyman Jason Graae can relate, a deliriously fun "Twelve Days of Christmas" as an audience sing-a-long among other surprises. Graae is a joy to watch. It's his improv skills, his spontaneous ability to captivate an audience that make him so likable - and he can really sing! Many take this for granted. To say the least, he has some great numbers here like "Witchcraft" and "Chicago". What a joy to see Heather Lee, such a fine character actress, sing in a revue! She's not only elegant and fun, but has such a terrific vocal instrument, which she shows off with abundant charm. Of course, Beth Malone has a stagecraft and delightful way all her very own and she lets it rip particularly on "The Man That Got Away". The piece-de-resistance is Sinatra song artist Luca Ellis. Just close your eyes and listen to "An Old-Fashioned Christmas", "Fly Me to the Moon", "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "New York, New York". He sounds uncannily like the Chairman of the Board with a style and grace that pull you in and hold onto you with every note he sings. And he's pretty suave and handsome to boot! The chemistry between all four is just wonderful, making both their singing and speaking exchanges laid-back and thoroughly enjoyable. It's like being in a living room with friends and fits right into Francis Albert Sinatra's lifestyle!

Other memorable songs of the evening include: "Mistletoe and Holly", "All or Nothing At All", "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "Winter Wonderland", "You Make Me Feel So Young" and of course, "My Way". Musical arrangements are by Vince di Mura who serves brilliantly as musical director at the piano. James Leary III is on bass and Jimmy Ford on drums. Bruce Goodrich's Christmasy set design is lush, as are Gene Barnhart's costumes. Loved Malone's and Lee's black gowns and the men's silver jackets for Act II.

What a fantastic way to spend the holiday season with four miraculous singers/entertainers and the music of the number one singer of all time Frank Sinatra. Christmas My Way is a great big hit from start to finish, a Christmas present dressed to the nines and tied up with a bow! Review

By Robert Machray

El Portal Christmas My WayChristmas has come to the El Portal and its classy Sinatra. A marvelous review using four of Los Angeles' best talents and the music of Frank Sinatra is now playing at the historic El Portal Theatre. Sinatra produced many Christmas albums and we were treated to many of these plus some of his standards. David Grapes and Todd Olsen created the review, Grapes directs. This creative team also wrote My Way- A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. The presentation takes place on a terrific set by Bruce Goodrich, complete with a fully laden tree, a bar, and a lounge area. The four talents were Heather Lee, Jason Graae, Beth Malone, and Luca Ellis.

Heather Lee is a gorgeous blond known primarily as an actress though she has done her share of musicals (Gypsy and Guys and Dolls on Broadway). She has a lovely lilting soprano voice and more than holds her own with the others.

Jason Graae is a wonderful comedian with a sweet voice. He provided much of the evenings funniest moments. But he also shows a more serious side when he sings "Chicago" and "Witchcraft". His parody of "A Night Before Christmas" was hilarious. I always enjoy Jason's natural appeal to an audience.

Beth Malone is a Broadway belter and struck gold with " The Man That Got Away". She has powerful stage presence and is a real looker too.

Luca Ellis is about as close as you can get to "Ole Blue Eyes" himself. He is a very good-looking man and has an easy style, like Sinatra. He doesn't try to impersonate Sinatra as much as he captures Frank's style. If you close your eyes, you would be hard put to tell the difference. He was a sensation when he did another Sinatra show last year called "From Hollywood to Hoboken" which ran a record number of months at the Edgemar Theatre and was thought by many to be the best show of last year. He sang some of Frank's most famous songs, "New York New York", "Fly Me To The Moon, and "An Old Fashioned Christmas, and ended with the iconic "My Way"." My Way- A Sinatra Holiday Bash is a delightful, well- sung show.

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