Sinatra tribute a hit at CityStage

11/22/2003

Fred Sokol, Theater Writer
The Springfield Republican (MA)

Bright and breezy, "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra" fills CityStage for a couple of precious hours with lyrics "Ol' Blue Eyes" so carefully crooned any number of years ago. The concept for this revue, developed by David Grapes and Todd Olson, is most appropriate. A sold-out house on opening night was more than appreciative as several in the audience sang along, from time to time, with the quartet of performers.

The singers provide 50 some-odd tunes by this master of pop and swing, and, to provide linkage, the singer/actors occasionally add just a tad of narrative.

This show draws a keen focus upon his music and Michael Licata's direction drives the production forward with nary a lagging moment.

It does not take long for Les Lankhorst to establish himself as the singer who has the richest and warmest voice of the four and, more important, the best understanding of Sinatra's musical dexterity. First act moments of note include Lankhorst's "I've Got You Under My Skin" and the crowd-pleasing "New York, New York." His rendition of the poignant "I'll Be Seeing You" is also a highlight.

Steve Parmenter has a pleasant voice and he blends well with Lankhorst on "Summer Wind." Redheaded Nancie Sanderson does a fine job with "Funny Valentine." Throughout, Natalie Silverlieb is physically expressive and her dance routines are commendable.

"Young at Heart" (Lankhorst again) elicited the most emotional response of the evening until final numbers "That's Life" and the title tune "My Way."

While the sight and sound of youthful Frank resulted in scores of young women tending to swoon, his wonderfully resonant baritone voice began to lose its mellow quality 20 years after his early triumphs. Yet, Sinatra was able to inspire even after he lost range and timbre.

His mastery of breath control and phrasing was stunning. Besides, he understood the musical line and created lasting rapport with his listening audience. The Chairman of the Board sometimes made h is entry after the initial instrumental beat. Sinatra would always catch up and conclude on time. Lankhorst, without becoming imitative, demonstrates full comprehension of Sinatra's ability to phrase with consummate precision.

The musical is very good news because it offers, to a generalist audience somewhat familiar with recognizable melodies, a relaxing, entertaining evening. Every so often the foursome harmonize. Johnny Mercer's "Dream," midway through the second act, provides moments when the voices mesh with lovely results. "My Way" stirs memories through many a romantic ballad, all so evocative of the great Sinatra.

… the entire show is splendid and "My Way" is quite fulfilling.



REVIEW: The Carolina Theatre Review: My Way Was a Swinging Tribute to Francis Albert Sinatra

by Robert W. McDowell

The first National Tour of My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, presented Feb. 6 by Encore Attractions and The Carolina Theatre at The Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC, was a swinging salute to Francis Albert Sinatra (1915-98), a.k.a. "Old Blue Eyes," a.k.a. "The Chairman of the Board."

Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson and originally created for the Tenness Repertory Theatre, My Way concentrates on the Sinatra songbook, and its adoring star struck narrative by Todd Olson whitewashes the controversial singer and actor's occasionally boorish behavior and lifelong associations with gangsters. Instead, My Way focuses on songs to soothe the broken heart — songs sung in the Sinatra style with no attempt made imitate each and every one of the master's trademark vocal mannerisms.

Director Michael Licata and choreographer Rex Henriques staged My Way with great style and wit; and an onstage trio of musical director Jason Loffredo (piano), John Convertino (standup bass), and Rick Donato (drums) really provided high-octane accompaniment.

Scenic designer Bradley Kaye created a set suitable for a first-class nightclub act, lighting designer Jeremy Isaacs skillfully lit even the most intimate moments, and costume designer Glenn Avery Breed outfitted the cast in an eye-catching array of glad rags.

In phrasing and skill in bending a lyric or a note to make a musical point, Steve Parmenter reminded us most of the wonderful way that Sinatra caressed a lyric — from his debut performances as a big-band singer in 1939 until right before those last ill-advised concert appearances that he made after his voice had lost its elasticity and was subject to cracking as he strained to hit high notes that he previously hit effortlessly.

Les Lankhorst was a strong singer with a fine feel for comedy, sultry Nancie Sanderson provided sexual tension and comic relief, and Natalie Silverlieb also added a dash of humor and a dollop of heartbreak to this young and highly talented quartet. During the evening, they sang all or part of nearly 60 of Frank Sinatra's greatest hits, including "Come Fly With Me," "I Love Paris," "Strangers in the Night," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "That's Life," "New York New York" and, of course, "My Way." They gave the audience more, much more than its moneysworth.

My Way ranked A-Number One, top of the heap with last Friday night's audience, which gave the show a hearty standing ovation.

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