Plenty of energy and charm in MusicalFare Theatre's "Christmas My Way." - Buffalo News

MusicalFare's Randall Kramer had never done a Christmas show, but when he heard that David Grapes and Todd Olsen were working on a holiday version of their Frank Sinatra tribute musical "My Way," he invited them to try it out in Buffalo.

As a result, this is the first production of "Christmas My Way: A Frank Sinatra Holiday Bash" which capitalizes on the 31 Christmas songs recorded by the Chairman of the Board.

The show is a revue of solos and ensemble numbers. About half are Christmas songs, rounded out with Sinatra standards.

As for the non-musical segments, we have the Sinatra version of " 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house/Frank was snuggling with Ava/or was it Juliet Prowse?"

We also get a "Rat Pack" take on the "Gift of the Magi," delivered with zest by Lisa Ludwig. The audience loved the interactive "Twelve Days of Christmas" ala Frank in which a "Jack Daniels on the rocks" replaced the traditional partridge - especially Ludwig's punctuation of the "six hours of hey-hey."

Sinatra would be at home here as Chris Schenk's set feels like a classy supper club. The men are in tuxes, the women in sparkles and the bar well-stocked. Kramer's smart direction keeps the pace lively and the mood varied.

Michael Hake's musical direction is very strong throughout and as an added bonus, he gets to show his chops off at the piano along with Dan Hull on percussion and bassist Dave Siegfried. Usually hidden offstage, it's nice to see them get the chance to shine.

The performers are all terrific, and although Frank Sinatra's name may be in the title, this is clearly John Fredo's show. He choreographed this production and after killing in the original "My Way," the producers were smart enough to take him on the road with it.

I wasn't sitting close enough to see if Fredo's eyes are blue, but they may as well be. He doesn't imitate Sinatra vocally; he channels his energy, charm and machismo. Fredo is "in the zone" here and all of his numbers are top-notch. If his singing - complete with backup singers - doesn't put a smile on your face, you need a lot more than a Jack Daniels on the rocks this Christmas.

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