Temple’s Season opens with tender tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes

Susan Farrington,
The Sanford Herald

“’My Way’ has it all -- compelling music, superb arrangements, easygoing comedy and seven peerless performers sharing a wonderful time”

SANFORD -- Give the actor/vocalists their well-deserved due for having glorious pipes and fabulous dancing feet. But the real “stars” of Temple Theatre’s production of “My Way” are the cherished songs that are destined to linger forever under our skins.

The show’s opening number, “Strangers in the Night,” elicits a familiar ingle of remembrance that suffuses the entire evening. As Frank Sinatra said, the secret to his success was singing great songs, and that’s the secret of this quintessential Sinatra-esque musical review. This captivating salute merges more than 50 of Sinatra’s greatest hits into a seamless show interwoven with amusing repartee and interspersed with inspired improv tap routines.

Segueing with split-second timing into a series of medley favorites, the performers – suave dudes Patrick Ryan Sullivan, Melvin Tunstall III and Kevin Worley – and their glamorous dame, Cassandra Vallery, in a slinky L.B.D. (little black dress), sweep theatergoers down a memory lane of such incomparable favorites as “Sunny Side of the Street,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and “Chicago, Chicago.” Every tune captures the certain panache – the trademark élan – that made the Chairman of the Board an icon throughout the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s and beyond.

Transitioning smoothly into medleys celebrating young love – “Let’s Get Away from It ALL,” the summer scene where “Something Wonderful Happens” and “Love and Marriage” – from “The Tender Trap” to “That Old Black Magic,” Act I holds the audience spellbound. Act II, opening with its losers-and boozers medley, is equally enthralling, moving through one after another haunting, melancholy number. Hearing all the matchless favorites that Sinatra effortlessly made his own, from “You Go to My Head” to “Fly Me to the Moon” to “I’m Gonna Live ‘til I Die,” one’s enchantment keeps on mounting. 

Highlights during this classy evening are almost impossible to enumerate. There’s the stunning array of clinging gowns worn by Vallery, who looks like a Versace model, sings like a honky-tonk angel and proves to be a talented comedienne when she dances with a dragooned playgoer. (Opening night’s dazed viewer, Chuck Barth of Whispering Pines, carried the scene off with surprising aplomb.)

There’s Sullivan’s extraordinary, heartbreaking rendition of “One for My Baby,” which deservedly brings down the house. There are the elegantly insouciant tap routines by Tunstall, who looks like a Hollywood idol, and Worley, a youthful Dean Martin look-alike. Joining this stellar cast of professional actors onstage are three ultra-talented musicians – inimitable virtuoso musical director/crooner/comedian Darren Server, swinging bass player Reinette Seaman and accomplished percussionist Ted Zislis. 

Both Dennis Maulden’s creative scenic design for a swanky nightclub, which works especially well on Temple Theatre’s stage, and Todd Wren’s superb lighting design, with its judiciously directed spotlights and starry backdrop, enhance the evening’s enjoyment.

“My Way” has it all – compelling music superb arrangements, easygoing comedy and seven peerless performers sharing a wonderful time. The entire infectious show goes tot the head, lingers like a sparkling brew and keeps listeners humming long after the lights go out. This is musical theater at its best, which bodes well for Temple Theatre’s artistic director David H. Matthews.

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