'My Way' hits all the right notes
Lafayette Civic Theatre

Reviewed by Amy Long

“My Way,” a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, the opening production for Civic Theatre’s 2012-13 MainStage season, hits all the right notes with dozens of songs recorded by Ol’ Blue Eyes, simple, elegant staging, and stellar vocal talent.

Unlike last season’s “Red Hot and Cole,” which strung together Cole Porter songs within a clunky narrative of his life and career, “My Way” doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a musical revue. Unencumbered by a dramatic script, the tightly paced program packs nearly 60 songs — some of Sinatra’s signature standards as well as lesser known numbers — and a 15-minute intermission into less than two hours.

In the program, the four performers are billed as Man #1, Man #2, Woman #1 and Woman #2, and, mostly through choreography, they loosely portray an older, experienced couple and a pair of young lovers. But they introduce themselves by their real names: Bob Mindrum, Tim Devery, Cathy Russell and Caitlin Benner. This is a straight-up musical performance.

But, oh, what a performance it is. With dozens of productions under their collective belt, these musical theater veterans score with every song.

Mindrum’s strong, steady voice, Russell’s bright, sparkly soprano and Devary’s clear, perfectly pitched vocals each expertly carry their solo numbers and blend beautifully as a group.

Benner, though, deserves special accolades. A vocalist with the Purdue Jazz Band for the past five years, Benner has a smooth, soulful sound that is simultaneously sweet and seductive — the perfect voice to carry off any number by the Sultan of Swoon. And her amazingly enormous, expressive eyes steal the show.

Props also go to three-piece band (musical director Paul Addison on piano, with bassist Caleb Benner and drummer Ken Jordan) for setting the brisk pace yet never overwhelming the singers; and to the set designers for establishing a smart mood with an elegant, sophisticated nighttime cityscape set.

Judging from the enthusiastic crowd that packed the theater on Friday and obviously enjoyed the show, “My Way” is a hit that clearly resonates with the Civic Theatre base. It’s a jaunty production and a logical choice to generate excitement for the coming season.

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