'MY WAY' CAPTURES SINATRA'S MAGIC

Janina Shoemaker
Biloxi Sun Herald


The legend of Frank Sinatra has come to Center Stage with all the charisma of Ol' Blues Eyes himself. Sinatra fans, don't miss this tribute to The Chairman of the Board, and music aficionados, sit back and relax: It's all done in "My Way."

Director/choreographer Ben Lokey has blended the music, the man, and his cast into the perfect tribute to Sinatra's easy manner and sound with a scrumptious visual background and Donnie Taylor's combo's rhythms. This is the perfect venue for this show, intimate and sophisticated simplicity.

Sinatra is a legend: winner of 11 Grammys, two Oscars, and two Golden Globes, plus other achievement and humanitarian awards; sang with Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and later, with Nelson Riddle orchestras; a 60-plus-year career, and the typical headlines of a celebrity in and out of love. His first major film as a dramatic actor was "From Here to Eternity" (a significant title for his legacy); he also won acclaim for "Man With a Golden Arm" (substitute "voice," if you will) and "The Manchurian Candidate," both serious roles. He was tapped for singing roles in "Pal Joey," "High Society," and the ever-popular "Guys and Dolls." His Rat Pack gave us the original "Ocean's Eleven," a clever heist that gave full rein to the tabloid-rumored connections.

In "My Way," the legend is presented through his music with melancholy medleys, finger-snapping fox trots and solo songs from his albums --- "Songs for Young Lovers," "A Swingin' Affair," "Come Fly With Me," "Swing Easy," "In the Wee Small Hours" and "Ol' Blue Eyes is Back" --- which read like chapters of his life.

Presented in the style of Sinatra, the songs are relaxed, lyrics are phrased with attention to the meaning and the melodies seem effortless. Four of the best singers on the Coast are featured in this retrospective, and Lokey has kept the attention to the songs themselves primary. The evening is dedicated to the music with minimal staging and dance, and pleasant commentary is delicately interspersed. It's a beautiful production in all ways: music, setting, dress, voices, harmony and performers. For fashionistas, the gowns are exquisite. Black and white, or red, and diamond accessories.

The ensemble performers are Karen Abernathy, Shari Pol, Keith Ballard and avid Delk, all polished up like gems in a glorious setting, with Donnie Taylor, Jonathan Symanski, and Ken Williams backing up the arrangements. The technical aspects are also ensemble effects with smooth elegance in the "less is more" theory of decoration.

Whatever your favorite Sinatra tune --- "You Go To My Head," "I'll Be Seeing You," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Fly Me To the Moon" --- mellow out and let the show flow. And when it's over, keep applauding: There's more.

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