3LB tribute show is rich with songs, style of Ol' Blue Eyes

Jeff Murphy
Special to The News Journal

PIKE CREEK -- Fans of the late Frank Sinatra will revel in "My Way," a musical revue and tribute to the smooth crooner being performed this month at Pike Creek's Three Little Bakers Dinner Theatre.

The body of Sinatra's work is enormous, as witnessed by the many radio shows with titles like "Fridays with Frank" or "Sundays with Sinatra," and boasts some of the 20th century's best songwriting. To a songwriter or lyricist in Sinatra's heyday, to have him choose to perform your song was the highest form of flattery.

The songs are grouped into thematic medleys with titles such as "Broadway," "Young Love" or "Cities," which includes Cole Porter's "I Love Paris," "Chicago" and "How About You? (I Like New York in June)."

The song selection does include all of Frank's classics, including a song that's said to be synonymous with his name, "The Lady is a Tramp." Some dialogue extolling the Sinatra mystique is offered between the sets.

Pithy quotes and facts offer glimpses into the charismatic member of Hollywood's "Rat Pack." Examples include: "<[I>What's the secret of your success?] Three words: Sing good songs." He is also quoted as having said, "You only live once -- and the way I live, once is enough."

The revue's "action" takes place around a band and a rolling bar on wheels, complete with bottles and stools. The singing actors skip the onstage cigarette, as Sinatra did in his autumn years, but can often be found pouring themselves a cocktail in between songs.

Getting into the show's intent and spirit is its able cast of four singing dancers.

Young John Curtis shows a carefree attitude, in a white tuxedo with a black shirt, and has an ample voice despite his slight frame. Vicky Saunders is light on her feet and smiles her way through the dance routines she handily conquers. A highlight number is her rendition of "The Same Old Song and Dance."

Kimberly Schroeder easily handles some of the more challenging ballads, such as a slow version of "My Funny Valentine," and sings well while dancing during "I Only Have Eyes for You." Finally, Bob Miller best embodies the show's sophisticated attitude and provides interesting reactions during what may be considered the show's dramatic elements.

Valerie Smith and Garrett Minniti, who choreograph and direct the proceedings, lovingly stage the production and use carefully lighted areas in front of a cityscape backdrop to create appropriate impressions that complement the music. They also provide a good mixture of duets, solos and four-part harmony among the dozens of tunes to keep things interesting.

A welcome musical perk is a very capable live three-piece jazz combo -- featuring Edd Paffett on piano, Bob Colligan on bass and John Hoey on drums -- that sits on risers upstage center. Accomplished musicians all, they effortlessly carry both a pre-show dance session of jazz standards and the show itself.

Music director James J. Weber makes it seem more an intimate party than the concert it might be like, with a big band feel. For instance, during "Fly Me to the Moon," the big crescendos in the recorded version are replaced by a little soft shoe in the form of a tap-dance routine that uses sand to amplify the dancers' rhythmic shuffling.

This revue gives Sinatra fans -- new and old -- good reason to celebrate his musical legacy.

Jeff Murphy is a free-lance Wilmington writer.

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