Topeka Civic Theatre Quad does Sinatra with style
By Bill Blankenship
If no one sang a note in "My Way," the Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy's musical tribute to Frank Sinatra still would treat the ears to a great time.
Instead of being relegated to the orchestra pit under the Sheffel Theatre stage, "My Way's" band shares the spotlight.
Marilyn Foree proves again what a marvel she is on the keyboards, performing with unparalleled panache and with the soul of a jazz pianist.
With husband and drummer Eddie Foree and bassist Kurt, the jazz trio is as fine as any combo found in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or any other city Old Blues Eyes performed in or sang about.
But "My Way" does have singers.
Four of Topeka's finest voices --- Robb Baker, Cydney Fowler, Michael Hagen and Rhonda Lassiter --- sing nearly five dozen songs in a style inspired by the Chairman of the Board.
And the songs?
Under the able musical direction of Dr. Kevin Kellim, who knows how to blend voices as director of the Topeka Festival Singers, Washburn Singers and the Washburn Choir, the four "My Way" vocalists often sounded like Manhattan Transfer with their tight harmonies and jazz inflections while nattily attired by costume designer Kate Stires.
Each of the singers also got chances to solo, delivering one special moment after another, but Baker, who is blessed with a gorgeous voice, left a lasting impression. Not only can he sell a song, but he infused most of the comedy into the show, especially as he clumsily took lessons in being suave from Hagar.
All four singers also proved they could hoof it with the guidance of choreographer Angie Allendorf Price, who taught Fowler and Hagar to do a pretty sensual tango across the classy, Copacabana-like set designed by Ted Shonka and lushly-lit by Adam Jenks.
Director Shannon J. Reilly kept the emphasis on the music, drawing from the cast a high-energy, heartfelt tribute to a true American musical legend.
"My Way" is a must-see.
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