Theater review: Franks for the memories

By Joe Burns/
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Let's be frank, there was only one Sinatra. Maybe that's why the Harwich Junior Theatre chose four talented singers for "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra." The revue, conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson and directed by Richard Sullivan, is a sophisticated, light-hearted, finger-snapping romp through the Sinatra songbook.

The setting by James P. Byrne is a Manhattan penthouse with a skyline view and deco decor, that has one half expecting Nick and Nora Charles to be walking through the door. They don't. Instead, looking no less urbane are Larry Marsland, Eileen Fendler, Michael Brennan and Anne Vohs. Two fun-loving, flirtatious "couples" who are enjoying cocktails before going out to dine.

Segueing their medleys with insights into the life and legend of the world's most celebrated saloon singer, they go through more than 50 of Sinatra's songs before the night is through. But considering that Sinatra recorded well over 1,000 (Brennan threatens the audience that they'll be doing them all) is just a taste of Sinatra's stylings.

None actually try to sound or act like Sinatra, but if any of them have Rat Pack potential it's Marsland. Cool, casual and amused, he seems he's a song salesman, able to put over a number as easily as he glides across the stage. (Check him out on "I've Got the World on a String.")

Fendler, his onstage partner, makes for a good match. A polished performer with a pop and jazz background, dancing talents is the equal of her vocal ability, which is impressive. (Case in point, "I Get a Kick Out of You.")

Brennan looks and sounds like a Gordon McRae in the making. Vohs, his partner, also has that Broadway musical way about her, and comedic instincts that are a delight. (It might be fun to see these two together in a production of "Annie Get Your Gun.")

The dinner date is the excuse for ending Act 1. The meal must have been great because when they returned for Act 2, all were even better than before. Starting with the Losers Medley, that of course includes the classic "One For My Baby," the group pushed it up a notch.

Musical director Bob Wilder, piano; Paul Vaterlaus, acoustic bass; and Mark Van Bork, drums all accompany the singers, provide superb accompaniment throughout, and given a moment to shine in Act 1, treat the audience to some creative instrumental conversation.

Hats off to choreographer Terry Norgeot who knows how to make the most of the talent. Fine work also was provided by costume designer Robin McLauglin and lighting designer Anne Kiefer.

"My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra," 8 p.m. through Oct. 12, Harwich Junior Theatre, Division Street, West Harwich. Tickets: 508-432-2002.

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