My Way' features fine voices, fancy footwork

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Review

PEORIA -It may seem simple, but it's not.

A stunning tribute to Frank Sinatra, with four fine singers packing 48 of his songs into 90 minutes of spontaneous joy, brought the opening night audience to its feet Friday at Peoria Players Theatre.

"My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra" has been done many times, but this production directed by Sean C. Howell, with Kirk Bradshaw as music director and Erica Franken as choreographer, is something special.

The spirit of "Ol' Blue Eyes" fills the stage as Steve Bortolotti, Katie McLuckie, Mark Roe and Carrie Tilly set off on a musical tour of Sinatra favorites, Broadway medleys and "songs for survivors." A combination of their good voices and a combo with Bradshaw on piano, Bob Lucas on drums and Joseph Kriz on bass strikes just the right setting for the shifting moods and rhythms that sweep the audience from "Strangers In the Night" to Sinatra's signature "My Way."

There's also a lot of choreography in this show, from tricky tap-dance routines to some semi-vaudeville buck-and-wing turns. Along the way there are stories and anecdotes about Sinatra and his tumultuous life with its partying, marriages and Rat Pack friends. "It's been said that half the population over 40 was conceived while listening to a Sinatra tune," is one observation.

And Sinatra's favorite toast was, "May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine." The voices on stage for this show are each one outstanding. And they have stage presence. Tilly has performed in community theaters around the country and brings a warm seductive voice to the stage, while McLuckie has been heard in many Peoria Players productions. Bortolotti, a veteran of some 20 local theater shows, is another commanding musical presence, while Roe brings the easy slouch and mannerisims of Sinatra.

For the eye there's a stage that sets the mood - a subdued nightclub atmosphere with a curved bar at the left side and the musical combo stage right.

Into this setting sweep Tilly in a commanding plum-colored gown and McLuckie in a strapless formal of the same color, with the men in formal white jackets. For the second half the women switch to striking, shimmering metallic gowns and the men into black tuxedos.

But it's the pace that drives everything on this stage, and one can only guess how many rehearsals it's taken to achieve these smooth transitions, fancy footwork and blended voices.

Director Howell in a program note toasts "those who appear on stage and to those you do not see," the production crew that includes stage manager Theresa Wike, costumers Paula Graves and Aliesha Graves and set designer Jeff Kluesner.

The songs themselves are a tribute to America's great composers of musicals - Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin and many more.

If you love hearing "Where or When," "Let's Face the Music and Dance," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "I Love Paris," "Chicago," "New York, New York," "Love and Marriage," "It Was a Very Good Year," "Young at Heart," "Nice 'n'Easy," "That Old Black Magic," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and many more, it's time to call for a ticket.

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