Riverside Dinner Theater toasts Frank Sinatra in a wonderful musical tribute

Review by Kurt Rabin, Fredericksburg.com

PHOTOS BY TOM ROTHENBERG FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR

In 'My Way—A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra,' Alex Canty (left), Blaire Baker, Tim Russell and Stephanie Cowan celebrate the crooner by performing 56 of his greatest songs.

It's always great to be back at the Riverside . . .

Especially when you're there to see four singer-performers lead you through a breezy musical salute to "Ol' Blue Eyes" and his more-than-five-decades-long singing career.

When our server said he hoped my wife and I would enjoy the show, I filled him in on the fact that I'm such a huge Sinatra fan, they could just hum a few bars of a couple of his songs and I'd go away happy.

"My Way—A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra," at Riverside Center Dinner Theater through June 28, gets right down to business, much like the man it pays homage to. There's not a wasted moment as the show's cast puts its own stamp on 56 out of the more than 1,300 ditties Swoon-atra recorded.

"My Way" isn't a stage play and it's not meant to be an impersonation. Instead, it's more like two hours of non-stop flattery, with a few biographical details and some lively banter tossed into the mix between musical numbers, which are performed with brio by Alex Canty, Blaire Baker, Tim Russell and Stephanie Cowan.

The Riverside stage has been transformed for this show into a Vegas-style lounge that houses a live trio of musicians. Still, it's not exactly "Sinatra Live at the Sands" we're talking about here. This is all good, clean fun. Think "Donny and Marie Live at the Flamingo."

"My Way" has clearly been pitched to a graying demographic. Sinatra's heyday occurred before baby boomers could glue their ears to their transistor radios. It was the Greatest Generation he was crooning to. The Saturday-night crowd at Riverside skewed older. When I'm the fair-haired boy in a concert crowd—which last occurred sometime in the early 1970s—you know folks are old.

There were definitely some young people there. Well, at least on stage. It was one of those youngsters, Tim Russell, who summed up the iconic singer best: "For those of you who followed Sinatra's career, you know that there were as many 'Franks' as there are states in the union. There was the husband, the father, the jilted lover, the skinny Dorsey crooner, the gutsy Capital swinger, the lion in winter, the life-liver, the Rat Packer, the drinker, the guy's guy. The only man in America who could wear a tuxedo the way John Wayne wore chaps."

A tip of the fedora must go to pianist/musical director Steve Przbylski for the tasteful musical arrangements, which managed to complement the singers on everything from the slow numbers to the swinging stuff.

The show's first-act highlights included Blaire Baker's torchy interpretation of "My Funny Valentine" as well as the ensemble's almost doo-wop treatment of "Where or When." Alex Canty did the honors on "New York, New York" and did a fine job of conveying late-period Sinatra. "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "All the Way" closed out the first set, and by then I was in full swoon.

The second act featured some of Sinatra's saloon-style songs. Especially notable were Tim Russell's take on "Drinking Again" and Alex Canty's deeply felt "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)." The singers all took turns to very good effect on "It Was a Very Good Year." Stephanie Cowan's rendering of "You Go to My Head" got to me like, well, a glass of champagne. "Fly Me to the Moon" got everyone's fingers snapping, and the cast did a nice job of trading verses on the rousing "That's Life."

"My Way" ended up feeling like a tribute not only to Sinatra but to the Great American Songbook itself. In fact, just about all of Sinatra's most memorable songs were represented, with the notable exceptions of "Night and Day" (for me) and "The Good Life" (for my wife).

Of course, maybe that was the plan all along, to merely set the stage for a sequel to this show. "My Way or the Highway," anyone?


Riverside Review - My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra

Review by by Denny & Christal, Thunder1045.com

Riverside My WayMy Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra is playing now through June 28th at the Riverside Center Dinner Theatre.  I was lucky enough to attend the Mother’s Day Matinee during opening weekend, and I enjoyed every minute.  The theatre was full, the food was excellent, and the service was stellar. 

I enjoyed a signature drink called the Fly Me To the Moon (think Blue Hawaiian) and started my meal with the Fried Green Tomato appetizer, so yummy.  I had the Baked Seafood Casserole as an entrée and a slice of cheesecake for dessert, both were delicious.  I always order a drink for intermission, and it’s usually a Chocolatini … don’t judge!

The show was a pleasant surprise, knowing it was a musical tribute and not a play or musical, I was happy to see the live band set up on stage.  The small cast of 4 was all new to me, and their voices are sensational!  If you’re ANY kind of Frank Sinatra fan, you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane with Old Blue Eyes.  There will be NO SPOILERS here, folks, but I will tell you this – ALL your favorite songs are here.  Saying that, I’d also like to point out that while I THOUGHT I knew a lot of songs by the Chairman of the Board, I was surprised by how many great songs were included that I hadn’t heard before.

The cast and staff of Riverside Center Dinner Theatre have pulled off another winner, and it won’t take long to get the word out, so get your tickets now before every show sells out!  Spend a night reminiscing about a bygone era filled with music, moonlight, and an honest to goodness TRIBUTE to one of the greatest crooners of our lifetime.  Go see My Way, it’ll leave you longing for far-away places and long lost love, the way only the memory of Frank Sinatra can. 


'My Way – A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra' at Riverside Center Dinner Theater

Julia L.
Exline

Riverside My Way

Riverside Center Dinner Theater presents My Way; A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra , conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, who also provides the book for this production. Director/Choreographer Dennis Courtney works with a live band and a quartet of vocalists to create a lively revue of Sinatra's work, and the result is a robust night of entertainment that any Sinatra fan would value. 

Onstage, Scenic Designer Benjamin Burke frames a stocked bar with draped curtains under a chandelier of lights. A live band is seated atop a platform upstage, led by Musical Director and Conductor Steve Pryzybylski on the piano, David Long on the drums, and Joanna Smith on the bass. Lighting Designer Kathryn Moncure uses warm tones and selective spotlighting to complete the atmosphere; a 1950's-style lounge where Frank himself would have been comfortable performing. Costume Designer Gaye Law keeps the wardrobe classy with an arrangement of cocktail dresses and suits and, later, going more formal with evening gowns and black-tie.

While anecdotes of Sinatra's life are shared, there isn't a plotline or impersonation of Sinatra to be seen in My Way. Vocalists Blaire Baker, Alex Canty, Stephanie Cowan, and Tim Russell bring his/her own distinct sound and range to Sinatra's songs, and none of them sound anything like the famous crooner himself. I believe this to be a fully intentional; there was only one Sinatra, and the goal of this production is to respect his work, not replicate it. Over fifty of Sinatra's songs are showcased throughout the evening – and to do this – only snippets of each song are shared, and the transitions between the songs are fluid and seamless, which I'm sure was a great challenge to construct.

Sinatra, an iconic cosmopolitan man who "had a song for every emotion and every season," had a gargantuan catalogue– even the man himself never knew the exact number of songs that he recorded, though it is known to be at least a thousand. For this production, the chosen songs were lumped into topics, including love (both the highs and lows), travel, and seasons, among others. The vocalists were friendly and casual, making jokes and teasing each other between songs (I especially enjoyed how they playfully squabbled over the microphone during the number "High Hopes.")

Riverside My WaySinatra's classics were crowd favorites, including "I Get A Kick Out of You," "New York, New York," and "I've Got You under My Skin." "Lean Baby," a song that I was unfamiliar with, had a teasing choreography that made it very enjoyable. Although the same can be said about "Love and Marriage," "The Best is Yet to Come" and "Fly Me to the Moon," all of the songs were enjoyable.

While the songs are the main event here, there was another quality to the show that made it great– musings of Sinatra's life and perfectly-timed quotes that made the audience feel closer to the artist himself. Sinatra was a man who enjoyed a good time, fine drinks, and women, which led to a full (and somewhat dramatic) life. I particularly liked a story of how Eva Gardner threw a gifted 6-carat ring out of the window of a moving car during an argument, never to be found to this day. Said Sinatra, "You only live once, and the way I do it, once is enough."

Four exceptional vocalists, who have great stage presence, are paired with a trio of swingin' musicians in Riverside Center Dinner Theater's enjoyable production of My Way – A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. It's a lovely evening of entertainment, and a huge treat for Ole Blue Eyes' fans, and music lovers alike.

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