Sinatra would be proud of Otterbein

Saturday,  August 2, 2008 3:10 AM

BY MICHAEL GROSSBERG
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Frank Sinatra fans are the prime audience for My Way, but Otterbein Summer Theatre's creamy season finale should appeal to anyone who enjoys great music.

With That Old Black Magic, I Get a Kick Out of You, I've Got You Under My Skin, I've Got the World on a String, Young-at-Heart, All of Me and Fly Me to the Moon among the almost 50 signature Sinatra hits selected for the tribute revue, who wouldn't enjoy such a trip down memory lane? And at 95 minutes, the show definitely doesn't wear out its welcome.

New York, New York -- the only song reprised -- was among the standouts that earned extra applause at Thursday's opening in the Campus Center Theatre.

Of course, Sinatra's familiar repertoire and the memories it sparks -- especially among aging baby boomers and their parents -- deserve a large share of the credit for the show's appeal. But all the rest should go to three terrific musicians and four splendid singers who work seamlessly to bring the memories to life.

Musical Director Dennis Davenport (excellent on keyboards) keeps the rhythms and melodies surging, reinforced by David White on bass and Tomasz Jarzecki on drums.

At the start, the student cast is dressed by costume designer Marcia Hain in formal 1950s-style whites and pastels that in some lesser numbers evoke the old-fashioned atmosphere of The Lawrence Welk Show.

Stephanie Gerckens' scenic design and Andy Baker's glamorous old-Vegas lighting, on the other hand, conjure up the early-1960s-hip, Sinatra-at-the-Sands atmosphere.

Under David Caldwell's smooth direction, Lucas Dixon, Tina Scariano, Elizabeth Shivener and Cory Smith sing, move and talk with enough charm, energy and talent to approach the syncopated cohesion of the Manhattan Transfer.

Dixon is the best actor and emotional interpreter, closely followed by Shivener. From New York, New York to That's Life, Dixon exudes a zest for life laced with a hint of troubles manfully overcome.

No one is foolish enough to try to impersonate Sinatra or copy his style, but all four singers find ways to interpret their best numbers and make them their own.

Scariano, a sexy blonde, delivers The Best Is Yet to Come with seductive promise.

Smith, almost as lanky as the young Sinatra, gives One for My Baby the hints of wounded and weary autobiography that made it resonate for Ol' Blue Eyes.

Shivener's emotional presence and vibrant voice move to the forefront, beginning with her commanding intro to the first-act closer, All the Way. And almost all the way through the shorter and more autumnal second act, when the cast re-emerges in stylish black, the beautiful brunette dominates.

For those touched by Sinatra's magic, the concept concert might bring back rich memories of being younger at heart.


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