Little's classy ‘My Way' would fly Ol' Blue Eyes to the moon

CARL LEBOVITZ
Charleston-Mattoon Journal-Gazette and Times-Courier

For its spring production, the Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan is presenting "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra."

"My Way" is one of a number of celebrity-celebratory musical revues making the rounds these days. Typically, they resuscitate a performer's greatest hits within a life-and-times format. Hank Williams, Janis Joplin, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Alberta Hunter, Jackie Wilson and Rosemary Clooney are all the subjects of such musical tributes.

Co-created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, "My Way" features two men and two women who run through some 50-plus songs associated with Sinatra in a night-club setting. The show opens with Sinatra's big 1966 hit, “Strangers in the Night," then takes on a medley format - a favorites medley ("All of Me"), Broadway medley ("My Funny Valentine" - but who can forget Chet Baker's haunting version?), cities ("I Love Paris"), young love ("Let's Get Away From It All"), love and marriage part 1 ("Love and Marriage," from the 1955 Emmy-winning TV musical version of "Our Town... with Sinatra as the Stage Manager) and part 2 (" All the Way"), losers ("It Was a Very Good Year"), big flirt ("Young at Heart"), the moon ("Fly Me to the Moon ") and songs for survival ("I'm Gonna Live 'till I Die").

All of this is interspersed, with a bit of patter about Sinatra the man, including a run-through of the 14 women that he married and/or carried on with.

Sinatra died on May 14, 1998. "My Way" premiered in June 2000 and has been packing them in everywhere ever since. A recent issue of " American Theatre" magazine called it "this season's most produced musical."

The Little Theatre production is directed by Grapes, who directed the original staging. The four singers - Nicole Fenstad, John Fredo, Kristin Huffman, Douglas Kampsen - have all been in previous productions of the show. They never try to imitate Sinatra, whose distinctive rhythmic style is, after all, inimitable. Fredo comes closest to reproducing the Sinatra style, spirit and sound, especially in his superb rendition of "One for My Baby," but they all put heart and soul into their singing and accompany it with some fancy footwork, thanks to Fredo's smart choreography.

They get a big assist from the sensitive, unintrusive musicianship of the onstage combo -musical director John C. Brown, piano; Jason Malmberg, bass; and Steve Adleman, percussion.

The spiffy art-deco nightclub set is from the original design by Tom Gleesen. The sparkling lighting is by Matthew T. Gross. Erin Joy Swank is the stage manager, and Michael Heinicke the production manager.

0l' Blue Eyes would be making whoopee over this classy show. It got a big hand from the small, but appreciative opening-night audience.

Cart Lebovitz is a reviewer-at-Large for the Journal Gazette and Times Courier. Contact Lebovitz at editorial@jg-tc.com.


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