Fine Arts' Musical Revue of Frank Sinatra Hits is Inebriating!

Cleveland Jewish News
Tommy Carosielli
October 4, 2016

My Way - Theo UbiqueDavid Grapes and Todd Olson's tribute to Frank Sinatra, titled "My Way," is a highball of a musical revue and the Fine Arts Association production in Willoughby is serving only top-shelf stuff.

Over 50 tunes from the vast Sinatra songbook, spanning his early recording days, his films and his concerts, are performed in medley by two men and two women in formal wear. Much to their credit and that of director David Malinowski, no one attempts to imitate Sinatra. And the three piece orchestra, under David A. Thomas' direction, does not attempt to replicate the Big Bands that backed ol' blue eyes.

When asked about the secret to his success, Sinatra once replied "I sing good songs." "My Way" is all about the songs. These are brilliant compositions by the world's most legendary tunesmiths, including Sammy Cahn, Cole Porter and John H. Mercer. Many were written specifically for Sinatra.

The songs are separated by a modicum of biographical banter, fun facts and quotes like the one just provided and are performed on a two-tier platform designed and dramatically lit by Michael Roesch. The top level holds the phenomenal orchestra, which consists of Denny Lawrence on drums, David A. Thomas on piano, and Katie Thomas on bass guitar. The lower tier houses a small bar and the singers who frequent it throughout the evening: Ingrid S. Balstad, Larry DiDonato, Joel McDaniel and Amy Vartenuk.

The younger couple, McDaniel and Vartenuk, cover the songs about falling in love and the 1940s version of sexuality. While Vartenuk flirts, quite successfully, McDaniel provides the comic relief that helps keep this production family friendly. Both of their voices are smooth, effortless and a pleasure to listen to.

The more mature Balstad and DiDonato cover the songs about the trials and tribulations of love and marriage. Both are master performers, she with an immense sense of showmanship and well-trained vocal cords and he with enough swagger to immediately recall what was so special about Sinatra.

All four execute Andrea Belser's simple and seductive choreography and subtle stage movement, though some ballroom dancing works its way into the production, which McDaniel and Vartenuk perform with grace and elegance.

Clearly, this musical revue is targeted at an audience who learned about life, love and libation while listening to Sinatra on the radio. But this music is evergreen and encourages everyone to imbibe. .

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