Bristol Riverside celebrates Sinatra

Anita Donovan
Trenton Times
July 14, 2003

For its second summer musicale, the Bristol Riverside Theatre has imported the Act II Playhouse production of "My Way," a musical revue that pays tribute to some of the thousands of songs performed by Frank Sinatra during his amazing career. Playing to capacity audiences at the little Ambler, Pa., playhouse, it was extended twice. Now, with a slightly different cast and band, it proves just as captivating to the BRT audience, particularly the over-40 crowd and 20- to 30-somethings who grew up hearing Sinatra in the background.

Barbara McCulloh and Johnnie Hobbs Jr.

Photo Credit:
BRT Staff Photographer

A fairly simple presentation, conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, with a minimal book by Olson, the show is simply great songs known to us through the stylings of Sinatra over a period of more than 50 years. From this play-goer's mother, who joined her screaming girlfriends at Manhattan's Paramount Theater in the early '40s to hear the scrawny crooner sing "All or Nothing at All," to the millions of radio listeners who still tune into Sinatra marathons on the nation's AM stations, "Old Blue Eyes" rules.
The songs are familiar, but varied in style, and the performers - two men and two women - do not attempt to do impersonations of Sinatra, but try to give the songs their individual interpretation. Grouped loosely into medleys, the numbers explore the seasons, geography, love and marriage, romantic heartbreak and finally Sinatra's pugnacious but always upbeat take on life.

Director Michael Licata has gathered a poised quartet of pros in, Christine Robertson, Fran Prisco and Bristol Riverside favorite . The ladies are svelte and glamorously gowned; the gentlemen, suavely tuxed. All can sing and, more important, they know what these songs are about.

Hobbs is finger-snappin' smooth on "I've Got the World on a String" and dances with grace, while Prisco is equally able to evoke humor, in "Makin' Whoopee,"` and pathos, in "Drinking Again. " McCulloh can croon a ballad such as "My Funny Valentine," shift to the honky-tonk challenge of "You're Cheatin' Yourself" and then take a turn as a wily senorita in "South of the Border."

Robertson, who has a "legit" and a pop voice, delivers a dreamy "Where or When" and a seductive "You Go to my Head," but can also jazz it up with "The Best is Yet to Come."

L to R: Fran Prisco, Christine Robertson.

Supporting the doings is musical director Eric Barnes on piano, with Andrew Nelson on bass and Eric Rubelt on drums. Their brisk arrangements combine something old with something new here and there. The intimate night club set, which appears to be Nick Embree's from the Act II run, is enhanced by James Leitner's lighting. Choreographer Rex Henriques provides just enough dance movement to entertain, but not so much that the singers are winded.

Sinatra said the key to his success was to "sing good songs." He was supplied by Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh, Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, Larry Hart, Richard Rodgers and Cole Porter, to name but a few.

Audiences, someone has said, are never wrong. When the audience bursts into song with the show - by invitation - and knows all the words, you can bet they are following Sinatra's advice.

Return to Reviews Page.

Site Design &
Maintenance by:
Copyright © 2001-2003 by Summerwind Productions, Franklin, TN
Last update: August 5, 2003 - All Rights Reserved.