Few 20th-century American men led lives as legendary as Frank Sinatra. On Friday, Seaside Music Theater opened "My Way," a musical tribute to Sinatra, which re-creates the legend, life and times of ol' blue eyes as expressed by his best-known works.

"My Way" attempts to paint an impressionistic portrait of a singer through the songs he chose to perform. It does so without imitation or impersonation, instead presenting songs in thematic groups, with an honest, straightforward style and often-clever arrangements. Between medleys, the conceivers, David Grapes and Todd Olson, inserted stage-banter that includes quotes from and about Sinatra along with narrative about his life and attitude ... the patter is witty and amusing.

Susie Roelofsz's voice is clear and cool as a dry vodka martini. Elizabeth Stanley, especially when a song takes her into her lower register, is as sultry as the cigarette smoke hanging in a nightclub spotlight.

Michael Shiles fills the room with his powerful baritone as suavely as Dom Perignon fills a champagne flute, while Jeremy Benton manages, without imitating him, to flawlessly adopt Sinatra's ability to slide casually into a note rather than hitting it directly on the head. Terry Tichenor, on piano, leads the very capable trio through faithfully jazzy instrumental backing.

Act Two opens with a series of cryin'-in-your-gin lovelorn songs and ends with a collection of the pensive, retrospective pieces from Sinatra's later years. The finale contains an incredible arrangement of "When I Was Seventeen" in which each singer explores an "age" until all come together in the "golden years."

Robert Fetterman designed a set in which every object on stage is black, silver or transparent, with chrome and black vinyl stools set against a glass block bar and black tables with chrome chairs, all framed by an exposed silver lighting grid. The elegantly minimalist arrangement creates the perfect urban backdrop for these urbane songs.

Director/choreographer Chuck Hoenes' staging of "My Way" is appropriately cinematic with a film-noir edge. He arranges the characters at tables, on barstools and at microphones, allowing them lingering, intimate moments, but never allowing the scene to become static.
Morris Sullivan - News-Journal


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