|Des Moines Playhouse does it Sinatra's way
Des Moines Register
It was the opening night of "My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra," directed by John Viars, and a mostly 50-plus crowd braved the below-zero temperatures to fill the theater.
The ensemble, with accompaniment from a trio of piano, bass and drums, sang medleys of 60 of the more than 1,000 songs Sinatra recorded throughout his career. By way of introduction to each medley, they talked about Sinatra's life - from his drinking, his women and his long career spanning big bands to movies and the phrases he lived by.
One of those phrases sums up what makes this show work. Sinatra said the key to his success was to "sing good songs." Nearly every tune in this production is a gem, and they're all so familiar that it's difficult not to sing along with the performers. Younger audiences would know almost as many of these songs as those who grew up in the Sinatra age.
Because the songs are grouped in themes and pick up one right after another, they form a conversation over the course of the show.
Brenda Ashley, making her onstage debut at the Playhouse, shines in slightly sultry numbers, bending bluesy notes in "My Funny Valentine" and "L.A. Is My Lady."
Sandra Henry and Justin Givan stand out in the comic parts, having fun with the duet "Love and Marriage." When Henry leaps onto Givan's back singing "All of Me," the fourth number of the night, she lets the audience know the show is about humor and our own takes on life as well as memorable tunes.
Henry seems to hit every note with ease, putting that hint of danger in her voice at the beginning of "I Love Paris" and projecting a dreaminess in "Something Wonderful Happens in Summer."
Givan is the show's wiseguy. His sardonic edge in "Makin' Whoopee" is perfect for the show tune.
Mark Morrison is most evocative of Sinatra. He plays the role of the suave man about town, sharing his moves with the less-experienced Givan. Not only does he have a defttouch with the ladies, but he's light on his feet.
Choreography, by Alison Shafer, is flirty and nostalgic, befitting the era of each song, and keeps the cast in nearly constant motion. No standing still in front of a microphone.
That is, until the last image on stage, of Sinatra's signature fedora on a mic stand as the final melody drifts away