Sinatra revue a perfect soundtrack for romance

By Dorothy Velasco
For The Register-Guard

Appeared in print: Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011, page D4

Photo credit: Michelle-Sellers, Kevin-Boling, Erica-Jean, and Brent-Anderson
“My Way,” a song-packed musical revue, is a tribute to the career of Frank Sinatra. Of course it is. The title immediately identifies the subject, as do so many of his song titles.

Now playing at Actors Cabaret of Eugene, the revue should please just about anyone, especially those over 40. In fact, one of the actors throws out a wild guess at how many people that age and older must have been conceived while their parents listened to Frankie on the hi-fi.

In the brief, casual patter of the six performers, we learn that Sinatra made more than 1,300 recordings in his lifetime. He sometimes sang 100 songs in a single day.

Although they mention his four wives, countless lovers and the Rat Pack, the show is hardly a biography. Rather, it’s a nearly continuous flow of songs, many of them gathered together in tidy medleys.

Medleys about love, about the cities he loved, about drinking and about growing older and wiser contain more than 50 songs. You’re probably familiar with all but one or two of them, even if you’ve never owned a Sinatra album.

The show was created by David Grapes and Todd Olson to be performed by as few as four singers. But Actors Cabaret, with plenty of talented performers available, uses six: Michelle Sellers, Kevin Boling, Erica Jean, Brent Anderson, Megan Hammon and Tony Coslett sing solo and as couples, trios or the whole group.

All the women sing in about the same range, making for sweet harmonies; all are strong singers. Sellers can add an extra layer of honey to her steady voice, and Coslett can hit high tenor notes.

Boling pulls out emotional power and uses convincing gestures. Anderson can be happy-go-lucky. Hammon is sweet and honest. Jean has a wonderfully expressive face, a fine sense of comic timing and smooth moves.

In the first act, director Joe Zingo dresses the women in black cocktail outfits and the men in white dinner jackets. In the second act, they’re even more formal: black tie and tails for the men and long colorful evening gowns for the women.

The setting is a posh, art deco nightclub. The musical accompaniment is well recorded by Don Kelley, but in this show it would have been fun to have a piano player onstage bantering with the singers, the way Ol’ Blue Eyes would have done it.

Many of Sinatra’s songs were written for him, but he made each of his songs his own. ‘My Funny Valentine,” “Strangers in the Night,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “New York, New York,” “Chicago,” “My Kind of Town,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “That’s Life,” “One for My Baby” and “My Way” are all here, but I’m only scratching the surface.

What’s especially enjoyable is that even though the performers do a fine job with these songs, we always hear Sinatra’s voice at the same time. Nobody can erase that from our memories.

Dorothy Velasco, a Springfield playwright, reviews theater for The Register-Guard.

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