Go out of your way to see 'My Way' at Muhlenberg

Geoff Gehman
Morning Call – Allentown, PA

Frank Sinatra advised martini drinkers to order two olives, one for themselves

and one for a friend. This tip is plopped, like an olive, into ''My Way,'' a martini-sharp revue of 57 of the nearly 1,400 songs recorded by the Chairman of the Board. The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre production is, like Sinatra's suggestion, quietly stylish and gently generous.

Sinatra's legacy is celebrated in a nightclub by two men in tuxes, two women in gowns and three instrumentalists led by a ponytailed pianist. The four lovers — two veterans, two novices — use Ol' Blue Eyes' tunes to break up, make up and review the rules of romance. Every now and then they toast the man who boasted: ''May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine.''

Damian Chiurco channels Sinatra's mannerisms — the crisp articulation, the unhurried pace, the stereophonic tone — without being an impersonator. He's humorously hip, a kind of cabaret James Bond. He drops his guard in a searching, painfully rueful ''Very Good Year,'' where he seems to age 25 years in four minutes.

Lisa Ludwig-Kramer brings a good, stiff musical-theater belt. She has a nicely spinning line; a snappy, come-hither attitude and a wide variety of antic, Streisand-esque faces. In ''L.A. Is My Lady'' she's a sultry vamp; in ''Something Stupid'' she and Chiurco are touchingly coy.

Joel Frank… is very appealing. And he neatly navigates the tricky, fairly obscure ''Lean Baby,'' which Sinatra recorded in 1953 during his first session with Capitol Records.

Jessica Ball, who plays Frank's on-again, off-again partner, is spunky and alert, a kind of burlesque ingénue. Her sassy moves include a leg draped over a forearm at the beginning of ''All of Me.'' She and Frank have a hell of a good time dancing in ''Fly Me to the Moon'' and ''The Best Is Yet to Come.''

Director David Grapes, who organized the show with Todd Olson, keeps the action moving swiftly and smoothly. Relationships wither and blossom easily all around the stage. One of the best intimate moments comes when Chiurco sings ''One For My Baby to pianist Vince di Mura, who becomes a bartender-psychologist at 2:45 a.m.

Di Mura plays spaciously and zestily, mixing stride, jellyroll and even Rachmaninoff. His heady arrangements include a swirling ''I Only Have Eyes for You'' and a grind-and-roll ''That's Life.'' Casting ''It Was a Very Good Year'' and ''My Way'' as quartets makes them more natural and less mawkish, more dramatic and less melodramatic.

Set designer Brian Christopher Slocum's nightclub is sleek and sparkling. Dig those skyline picture windows. Dennis Parichy's lights are romantic and sexy. Dig those starry effects. Michael McDonald's costumes are suave and snazzy. Dig those sparkly dresses.

Give ''My Way'' one and three-quarter olives out of two.

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