Hillbarn Theatre tribute to Sinatra a success their/his way

Keith Kreitman,
Inside Bay Area


THE PROBLEM with tribute shows to specific entertainers such as Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter or Noel Coward is that performances are inevitably judged against the original.

So it's wise to steer away from imitation. Director John Kirman does just that in "My Way, a Tribute to Frank Sinatra," which opened at the Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City during the weekend.

Of course, it helps to make a show successful by encasing it in a believable set, and Ron Gasparinetti again creates authenticity with his beautiful version of an "upholstered saloon" of the Sinatra era. Sinatra even described himself as a highly paid saloon singer.

Of course, he was more than that. He was a natural talent who could act and dance. He had the stubborn drive to impose those talents "his way" upon receptive audiences and thereby displaced Bing Crosby as the greatest ballad singer of the past century.

In so doing, he's now revered as a prime icon of his generation.

Having been raised in an Italian-American neighborhood similar to Sinatra's, I find it amusing that his mode of dress and expressions came to be looked upon by America as a Sinatra original invention.

But so what? Sinatra was instrumental in bringing that loose, swinging, fun-loving, sharp-dressing, good dancing ethos into the American entertainment mainstream — and that should be celebrated.

This show is a revue, featuring Sinatra's most famous songs punctuated by reminiscences about his life and career, and full of quotes from the great man himself, usually referring to his dissipated life and excessive drinking.

The songs, strung together by David Grapes and Todd Olson, make for a good, nostaligic show, and the cast of talented actor/singers had great appeal to the many seniors in the opening-night audience.

The younger performers — Zach Trimmer, a senior at San Mateo High School, and Anna Traina, a Foothill College student — are budding talents and meshed well with veterans James Kason and Juliet Green. Both solo and ensemble singers had folks in the audience tapping their feet.

And, in a nice, rare case, the musicians (pianist Ron Sfarzo, bassist Danny Min and drummer/music director Greg Sudmeier) became part of the action onstage.

The stellar lineup featured "All of Me," "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)," "New York, New York," "Summer Wind," "The Tender Trap," "Love and Marriage," "The Lady Is a Tramp," "One For My Baby," "Young at Heart," "It Was a Very Good Year" and, of course, the signature "My Way."


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