Quartet does Sinatra its way in 'My Way* at OAT

Special to the Times Trenton Times
Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Frank Sinatra left us in 1998, but the hundreds of songs he sang in his inimitable way still regale us on special "Sinatra days" on oldies radio stations and reassure us in the crush of supermarket aisles that "That's Life!"
Even the youngest generation recognizes the smooth lilt of his voice, its intimate promise of "Summer Wind" and jaunty affection for "Chicago, Chicago ."

The Washington Crossing Open Air Theatre in Hopewell Township is presenting "My Way," a musical revue that showcases Sinatra's greatest hits, executed by a quartet of enthusiastic young performers and a smart jazz trio.

Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, with a minimal book by Olson, the show is kept simple. Although there is no real story line, we follow two couples as they enjoy an evening of wining, dining and wandering through the Sinatra catalog.

A few biographical details are offered - after all, the Chairman of the Board came from Hoboken . He also had a gift for down-to-earth quips which are sprinkled judiciously throughout.

The four performers - two men and two women - wisely make no attempt to impersonate Sinatra; they just sing his well-known canon with clarity and respect. They also do a considerable amount of dancing – which Sinatra could do quite well in films, but usually did not in live performance. The arrangers have tied the numbers into medleys, celebrating the seasons, young love, great cities, Broadway highlights, romantic heartbreak and, finally, Sinatra's pugnacious but always upbeat take on life.

From Golden Age giants of the 1930s and 1940s such as Rodgers and Hart, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter to late-comers Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen of the 1950s, Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh and newcomers Quincy Jones and the Bergmans of the 1960s, almost all the great composers are represented.

The "My Way" cast originates from far and wide, with baritone Bob Miller and perky Vicky Saunders from Delaware , John Curtis from Maryland and Kimberiy Schroeder from far-off Nebraska . Having all worked together at The Three Little Bakers Theatre in Delaware , they have an ease and affinity in their singing and movement.

Schroeder takes on the moody "My Funny Valentine," and Saunders makes some smart observations in "The Same Old Song and Dance." Miller warns that love is a "Tender Trap," and asks "Fly Me to the Moon," while an inconsolable Schroeder opines, "Guess I'll Hang my Tears Out to Dry."

Curtis, who also tap dances like a dervish, offers the upside of the program, with "Sunny Side of the Street," "Makin' Whoopee," and "I'm Gonna Live till I Die." The couples also have their moments. Miller and Schroeder do the famous Frank-and-Nancy duet "Something Stupid," and Curtis and Saunders work up a bouncy "Love and Marriage."

The quartet gathers for Ervin Drake's "It Was a Very Good Year" and closes the show with Paul Anka composition "My Way," a song that escaped Anka and is always and forever Frank's.

The trio of John Hoey on drums, Ed Paffett on piano, and Bob Colligan on bass are fine-tuned to each other and the singers and appear to be having a heck of a time.

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