My Way: Tribute to Sinatra' at Orpheum

By Bud Norman
The Wichita Eagle

Posted on Sat, Nov. 09, 2002

Swingin' lovers, swooning bobby soxers and other fans of the late, great Frank Sinatra will likely find much to like in Stage One's "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra," which opened Thursday at the Orpheum Theater.

The show is basically an extended medley of 50-some songs associated with Sinatra, ranging from hits that the most casual fan will know to obscurities that might be unfamiliar to even the most dedicated fanatic. A smattering of explanatory patter by authors David Grapes and Todd Olson and some nicely atmospheric dance steps by director Nick Demos are interspersed, but the songs are clearly the star.

The advantage of this format is the abundance of good music it affords, reflecting Sinatra's impeccable taste as well as the stalwart work of such songwriting giants as Rodgers and Hart, Arlen and Mercer, Cole Porter, Sammy Cahn and Bert Kaempfert.

Amy Eschman makes a sultry soprano sound that goes nicely with her intimidatingly alluring appearance. She's especially strong with torch songs

-- and the torchier the better -- which allow her low-burn singing and icily sensual persona to create a compelling combination.

Offering an intriguing contrast to Eschman is Barbara Schoenhofer, whose brassy personality, sassy comedic flair and athletic dancing add up to what Sinatra would have undoubtedly considered an all-right broad. With a voice so husky it could pull a sled, Schoenhofer handles a wide range of material with shrewd phrasing and just the right emotional tone.

Tom Stuart's smooth voice and boyish handsomeness are redolent of the skinny, bow-tied Sinatra of the bobby-sox era, but he wisely avoids mere imitation and tackles the material with an easy-going earnestness of his own.

All four performers get considerable help from the outstanding musical direction of jazz pianist Steve Bartkoski, who leads the tight rhythm section of Sean Fanning and Steve Hatfield through arrangements by Vince Di Mura.

The space-age bachelor pad set design by J. Branson, atmospheric lighting by Sean Roberson and glittery costumes by Kate Thornton also make valuable contributions, and Larry Jones' sound design is strong.



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