Frank Sinatra's music evokes memories and good times

David Ritchey
West Side Leader

From left, Paul Hoffman, Ikeya Morning, Meg Hopp and Rob Dougherty share a scene in Weathervane Community Playhouse's production of "My Way, a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra." Photo courtesy of Weathervane Community Playhouse.
MERRIMAN VALLEY -- Weathervane Community Playhouse has a hit on its stage. The only question is, can everyone who will want to see this production be able to get tickets?

This new show, "My Way, a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra," includes almost 60 of the songs Sinatra recorded, performed by the cast with just a 20-minute intermission; the performance ended by 10 p.m. The two hours flew by in what seemed like two minutes.

David Grapes and Todd Olson compiled "My Way," which is mostly music. However, Olson wrote the book, which is really only Sinatra stories and quotes. The show features some of the most beautiful music of the 20th century: "Strangers in the Night," "My Funny Valentine," "I Love Paris," "Chicago, Chicago," "New York, New York," "The Best is Yet to Come" and dozens of other American favorites.

The credit for the success of this production has to be shared by many. However, Martín Céspedes (director and choreographer) made this a seamless production. The performers move from song to dance to story without a break or pause. The timing is perfect. Céspedes has superior directing credentials and should be brought back to Weathervane to direct other shows. He has made Weathervane as good as it can be.

Charles Korecki (sound engineer) deserves a great deal of credit for the success of this production. Each singer wears a microphone, and Korecki controlled the volume for the singers and for the instrumentalists. He did a superior job -- not a syllable was lost.

The cast of four -- Rob Dougherty, Paul Hoffman, Meg Hopp and Ikeya Morning -- is perfect, without a weak link or weak voice. Hoffman and Hopp seem to be the sophisticated, charming side of Sinatra. Morning has a comedic delivery that makes me want to see her do something like "Once Upon a Mattress." Daugherty has stage presence and charm.

At no time does anyone attempt to imitate Sinatra; this production is a celebration of Sinatra's life and talent. Anyone who lived after Sinatra became a famous crooner in the first half of the 20th century knows that he brought pleasure to audiences, and that pleasure is celebrated in this production.

The set is a bandstand -- created by Alan Scott Ferrall (scenic designer) and reminiscent of the 1940s -- with a three-piece combo to support the production. The multi-level playing area gives the performers a way to provide visual variety to the production.

Lighting designer Erin Katz illuminated the performers and focused the audience on certain areas on the stage. Jill Forster (stage manager) called the light cues to give the lighting changes the greatest dramatic impact.

Betty Williams and Dorothy Kies, costume designers, dressed the men in dinner jackets for the first half; after the intermission, they wore tuxedos. Williams and Kies must have known what Jackie Kennedy said about men in tuxedos: "If men knew how good they look in tuxedos, they'd wear them all the time."

However, Williams and Kies excel with the women's clothing, dressing them in elegant gowns that are stageworthy -- that is, they look good, yet the performers can dance, climb steps and move on the stage without being hampered by the costumes.

"My Way" is everything Sinatra was -- sophisticated, charming and entertaining. Unfortunately, "My Way" will continue only through Oct. 5. On opening night, the theater was almost filled. To get a seat for this production, call (330) 836-2626. This is a show you'll be talking about for a long, long time.

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron.


`My Way' as sleek as Chairman himself

Weathervane's revue honors Sinatra with style and sophistication he'd have appreciated

By Kerry Clawson
Beacon Journal staff writer

Audiences can just sit back and relax as they enjoy the sleekly sophisticated musical revue My Way at Weathervane Community Playhouse. The revue was created in loving appreciation of Frank Sinatra, featuring nearly 60 of his hits. This is the man who went from big band idol to movie star to international legend, recording more than 1,300 songs before his death in 1998.

My Way's high level of professionalism is a credit to director/choreographer Martin Cespedes, who is making his Weathervane directorial debut. Cespedes' impressive musical theater background includes acting in the national tours of Man of La Mancha, The King and I, South Pacific and West Side Story; numerous dance and opera credits; and directing credits off-Broadway and in Cleveland theaters.

In the performing quartet, the demurely flirty, gorgeous Ikeya Morning has Old Blue Eyes' vocal style down pat with her understated sophistication. She slides expertly through her notes, all the while in perfect control. One of her best numbers is Something Wonderful Happens in Summer.

This classy cast makes you feel like you're experiencing a champagne-infused evening as performers strut, dance and sing the music of ``The Voice.'' As they said, Sinatra had a tune for every mood, emotion and occasion, and this cast lets a great sampling of them roll out. The elegant Meg Hopp is featured the most heavily vocally, singing the soprano melody line. She and Paul Hoffman do a cute, fun tango in Let's Face the Music and Dance.

The cast's four-part harmony gels nicely, from the proud New York, New York and the lush I Only Have Eyes for You to the dreamy All the Way. Among the other musical highlights is the wistful One for My Baby; a fun medley of five moon-related songs; and Morning's sassy The Best is Yet to Come. Sinatra was a rakish-looking swell, and male cast members Hoffman and Rob Dougherty capture that spirit beautifully. `He was the only guy in America who could wear a tuxedo like John Wayne wore chaps,'' Dougherty said.

The theater's lobby display includes interesting newspaper clips, a short Sinatra biography and posters from his movies. A horrifying fact that was new to me was that Sinatra's priceless vocal cords hemorrhaged in 1952. This singer ended up making not one, but two career comebacks.

Inside the theater, Alan Scott Ferrall's snazzy, multilevel set features the cast in a nightclub atmosphere, with a three-piece combo. The stage backdrop alternates between great portraits of Sinatra and bold solids ranging from fuchsia to blue.

Amid the show's patter, I learned some fun and interesting facts: More than half of the U.S. population over age 40 was conceived while their parents were listening to the music of Sinatra. My Way's dialogue concentrates mostly on Sinatra's immense sense of style and memorable quotes, not on his career and life struggles.

Among Sinatra's most memorable words: "May you live to be 100, and may the last voice that you hear be me.''

Published on September 20, 2003, Page A2, Akron Beacon Journal (OH)


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