Sinatra tribute gets under your skin
 
Nick Crews
nick.crews@indystar.com
 
With its debut performance of "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra," the lavish production now at the Zionsville Performing Arts Center, the Actors Theatre of Indiana has put itself at the top of the heap.

It's also raised the bar for production standards for every theater in town.

Even if you don't like Frank Sinatra or the pop music associated with him, consider catching this show. The towering back-lit art deco sets by Atlanta-based Scott Sargent; diaphanous lighting by Amy Johnson; and a tight and tasty trio made up of Terry Woods on piano, Tom Harvey on drums and Don Jenkins on bass will leave you, as the saying goes, slack-jawed and trout-mouthed.

But at the heart of this swinging, seductive and handsomely produced show are the songs -- Frank's songs -- which is to say some of the truly great pop songs of the 20th century.

What this show is not is a crass impersonation of Sinatra. You get an opulently staged, tasteful celebration of Sinatra's life and work, complete with the peerless voices of Don Farrell, Judy Fitzgerald, Cynthia Collins and Jon Lambert; matchless harmonies; sharp repartee; and stylish and graceful dancing.

Song after song is given a fresh, fun and soulful reading with choice arrangements. Nearly 60 tunes are here; sung end-to-end, they capture the 50-plus-year career of Ol' Blue Eyes.

On one level, "My Way" -- written by David Grapes and Todd Olson -- is as light as confection; the songs are interspersed with dialogue that gives the songs a narrative context.

The characters, all of whom play out dual love interests throughout the show, keep up a flirtatious banter that shows Sinatra was nothing if not romantic.

Fitzgerald combines Eartha Kitt soulfulness with the brassiness of Ethel Merman. In addition to being about the sexiest thing on a local stage right now, Collins (who also handles choreography) sparkles like the diamonds on her wrist and sings with control, versatility, soul and richness. She also dances with precision, ease and passion.

Farrell, who has sung frequently with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, shows why he gets repeat invitations from musicians of such discrimination: He's no Sinatra -- no one is -- but from him these songs go down like a smooth martini. Lambert holds his own, and then some, no small feat in company of this caliber.
Songs include "Strangers in the Night," "My Kind of Town," "It Was a Very Good Year," "New York, New York," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "My Way."

With this show, Actors Theatre of Indiana lets us live again the urbanity, grace and style of the man who dared to do it his way.


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