Cumberland County Playhouse

Rog Robbenholt reviews
My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra

Sheer magic is in evidence at the Playhouse. It's an evening of bubbles, laughter and tears as the Todd Olson/David Grapes script My Way: a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra unfolds.

Four incredible songsters whip through fifty-seven songs in two hours. Due to the sheer creativity of director Brenda Sparks and choreographer Michele Colvin we never feel rushed. Every song, dance and fragment of dialogue are so skillfully interwoven that we are left with an experience of seamless delight.

The singers: Josh Powell (who also plays the lead in Phantom), Weslie Webster, Andrew Ross and Knoxville newcomer Lindsey Andrews are a cast to die for. It's great fun to see Powell unmasked and sense more intimately his commanding stage presence and resonant voice. Weslie Webster has proven again and again (as in Always, Patsy Cline) that she can take any musical genre and make it uniquely her own. Sweet voiced Andrew Ross looks like the young Sinatra as he croons out ballads like Should I? It is a delight to welcome Lindsey Andrews into the Playhouse family as a lithe, lovely singer who moves like a dream and at the same time belt out a sultry I Love Paris.

Perhaps the evening's most stunning aspect was the sheer beauty of the harmonies in duets and full quartet. The performances on this level send chills of delight through the hearer.

It's tough to pick out highlights. I savored Powell's forthright interpretation of I've Got the World on a String and That's Life. Webster grabs our emotions with Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry. Ross does a great interpretation of Drinking Again. Leslie has fun—and so do we—with All of Me.

Three onstage musicians take a really tough score and interpret it with rare sensitivity: musical director Ron Murphy at the piano, with Tim Wharton on bass and Jimmy Clemons on drums. Josh Liebert's sound design gave the audience perfect balance between band and singers.

John Fionte's portrait-filled café setting was gorgeous to look at and exactly right for the action of this show. It was skillfully lighted by Jason Rainone. This is an elegant show thanks to Renee Luttrell's choice of gowns for the ladies and tuxedos for the men.

The overall impression of this production is one of consummate joy. The cast projects a sense that they're having a ball—and audience members find themselves humming along on oldies like That Old Black Magic and Makin' Whoopee.

Again, praises to Brenda Sparks, Michele Colvin, and Ron Murphy for shaping a truly amazing experience for all of us. A warning: if you miss this one you'll find yourself experiencing a serious case of joy deprivation.

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