With Keith Buterbaugh, Nicole Fenstad, Kristin Huffman and James Ludwig. Directed by Todd Olson. At Actors Theatre through Aug. 18.
No one can dispute the influence of Frank Sinatra on popular music or that he helped etch memories into the hearts and minds of millions. Sinatra, or "The Voice," recorded more than 1,000 songs, many of them familiar tunes like "Summer Wind" and "Love and Marriage." Highlights from the crooner's extensive discography are the focus of "My Way -- A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra," currently playing at Actors Theatre.
The Bingham Theatre is transformed into a nightclub, complete with black lacquered bar tables, tall bar stools and crystal chandeliers. A light, odorless smoke drifts down from the theater's rafters to mimic cigarette smoke. "My Way" jumps right into the best of Sinatra with a small section from "Strangers in the Night." After "Strangers," the four members of the cast invite the audience into the heart of Sinatra's music with "Come Fly With Me."
The rest of the musical selections are divided into categories. For example, the Cities Medley category includes sections of "I Love Paris" and "Chicago." The most memorable number in this category was "New York, New York." For this number, the cast dons black fedoras and dances around a solitary microphone on a small rotating dais at the stage's center. Breaks between the medleys were opportunities for the actors to recall quotes from Sinatra and memories other musicians had of the man. The last category of the first act, the Love and Marriage Medley, includes snippets from "The Lady is a Tramp," "Witchcraft" and "I've Got You Under My Skin."
However, the four deserved every bit of the applause. They never missed a beat and offered Sinatra's melodies in clear, well-interpreted notes. A highlight was Nicole Fenstad's soprano in "Love and Marriage" and Keith Buterbaugh's "Summer Wind." But the music worked best when the four, including Kristin Huffman's spicy alto and James Ludwig's rich tenor, worked together. It was apparent the cast has a deep appreciation for Sinatra's music and will keep up the energy through the last performance.
The voices are accompanied by the show's music director and pianist, Gayle King, and bassist Mark McCulloch and percussionist Jeff McAllister. The live music added an almost tangible richness to the musical selections and topped off the evening. Another highlight of the play was knowing that Todd Olson, the author of "My Way," served as the production's director. Olson and David Grapes conceived "My Way" soon after Sinatra's death.
"My Way" runs through Aug. 18 at Actors Theatre of Louisville, 316 W. Main St. Call 584-1205 or visit www.actorstheatre.org for performance and ticket information.
Dana Norton - LEO
Blame the post-World War II baby boom on Frank Sinatra. A generation may have been conceived in the 1940s and '50s when couples made whoopee to Frank Sinatra LPs like "Songs for Swingin' Lovers."
If you don't know what an LP is or what "making whoopee" means, then you're from another generation altogether. But that doesn't mean you can't be a fan of the stylish vocalist from Hoboken, N.J., who died in 1998.
Sinatra, a singer of popular standards by such songwriting greats as Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen, continues to gain popularity. Like Tony Bennett, he's been discovered by a new generation of music lovers.
"My Way -- A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra," which opened last night at Actors Theatre of Louisville, will stir memories for older audiences while winning over new fans.
The nearly full Bingham Theatre audience last night was composed mainly of seniors, but word-of-mouth should spread quickly about this romantic, slightly melancholy show, sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, that features an incredible number of Sinatra songs -- 60 in all.
The two-hour, two-act show is divided into medleys. There's the Broadway Medley, including "My Funny Valentine" by Rodgers and Hart and Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You"; a Cities Medley with "Chicago" and "New York, New York;" and two Love and Marriage medleys with "Can I Steal a Little Love?" and "That Old Black Magic." There's a Losers Medley ("Drinkin' Again") and a Survivor's Medley ("That's Life" and of course, "My Way,") that caps the show.
When he wasn't brawling, boozing or womanizing, Sinatra recorded more than 150 hit songs between 1940 and 1980. He had staying power. The ATL musical should, too. The Chairman of the Board would like it that way.
By JUDITH EGERTON - The Courier-Journal
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