St. Petersburg Little Theatre
‘My Way’ done their way

Tampa Bay Newspapers

Don’t go expecting to see Frank at St. Petersburg Little Theatre’s production of “My Way,” which plays through Feb. 4.

No pictures of Sinatra decorate the lobby or the set. None of the performers are supposed to be Sinatra. It’s not the story of his life nor are the performers trying to imitate Sinatra when they sing. After all, imitating Sinatra – who sometimes performed 100 songs a day, during 45 performances a week and swam countless underwater laps to develop breath control – is near impossible.

What you will hear is a whole lot of music irrevocably linked to Sinatra.

From the opening “Strangers in the Night” to the reprise of “New York, New York,” “My Way” hits the highlights of Sinatra’s musical career. Lighthearted banter and Frank facts introduce each set, much as with any nightclub show.

Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson (American Stage Theatre Company’s producing artistic director), the review’s cast of four – Bill Bryant, Jacob Stewart, Jennifer Chandler, and Stefanie Lehmann – is backed by Latoya Alicia McCormick (also music director) on piano, Ron Gregg on drums, and Kenny Walker on bass. Stewart and Lehmann are students at Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School.

“My Way” showcases more than 55 (yes, you read that right) of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ songs, sung mostly in their entirety, against the backdrop of an elegant nightclub setting.

White columns, pots of ferns, black curtains. White grand piano flanked by bass and drums on a raised platform. Polished hardwood bar at one side, table and chairs at the other. Dance floor in the center. Sinatra’s world during his musical career that spanned six decades from the mid-1930s to the mid-1990s.

Not only did the cast present a prodigious amount of music, they sambaed and tangoed, rumbaed and foxtrotted, even tapped and soft-shoed.

Chandler crooned “My Funny Valentine” with just the right mixture of sultry melancholy. Lehmann and Stewart’s playful rendition of “Love and Marriage” foretold promising futures for these two young teens. Bryant, also assistant choreographer, gave a smooth rendition of “One For My Baby,” while interesting and unexpected four-part harmonies put twists on old classics.

Most in the audience knew the songs well enough to hum along occasionally. Here and there a head bobbed in time to the music.

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