note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
Theatre by the Sea’s 81st season opens with the fun and nostalgic Sonny Hackett’s The Rat Pack Show, a recreation and evocation of that famed band of merry entertainers, Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. It is sheer fun sassy and smart, filled with great singing and often raunchy comedy, a fun filled make you laugh and smile show that is pure delight to watch and moves along at a swift pace, packing laughs and music side by side with flair and inimitable style. It captures the camaraderie and self assurance, if not downright cockiness of the original members of the legendary group. Put together by Sonny Hackett, son of legendary comedian Buddy Hackett, it has a ring of authenticity that is sure to please in the mist of so many Rat Pack shows out there.
This critically acclaimed show has been all over. It opens with the voice of Buddy Hackett as the voice of God setting the stage for the return of the Rat Pack. Sandy Hackett comes out as Joey Bishop. Hackett was hand picked by Bishop for the role and did so with his blessing. Sonny Hackett is indeed very funny. He captures the mannerisms and humor of Bishop with skill and honesty. His sense of comic timing is impeccable and he knows how to make the most of a funny lie, pack in the most laughs possible. For example he mentions women at the gates to heave and some of them getting their virgin plaque. He leans over to a woman in the first row and says, “So you din’t get your?” He knows how to make the most out of double entendres and lines at the border on the sleazy without tripping over the border evoking tons of laughter along the way.
Then out comes Tom Walleck as Dean Martin. When he sings, “That’s Amore” it is easy to visualize Dean Martin up there on stage. He aptly captures the Martin sluured speech and laid back style with assurance and conviction. He does the same with “Volare” full of enthusiasm and relaxed charm.
Next is Louie Velez as Sammy Davis Jr. Velez has his mannerisms and voice down pat. It is very impressive. He excels in “Will I Still Be Me? (Mr. Bojangles”. The same is true with “Sam’s Song” He has the mannerisms and style of Davis down cold, right on target with zest and assurance.
Finally out comes Danny Grewen as the inimitable Frank Sinatra, Chairman of the Board himself. Grewen is right on the mark as Sinatra, aptly mimicking his mannerisms and singing voice with flair and finesse. He shines with songs like “My Kind of Town” and that classic Sinatra anthem, “My Way.” He captures the style, class and swagger of Sinatra and his voice with impeccable style and sincerity. He does the same with “Luck be A Lady” When he sings “A Foggy Day in London Town” the antics of Hackett behind him are hilarious.
Some of the other many gems here are “New York, New York,” “Me and My Shadow” and “Birth of the Blues.” If you love this kind of music, you will love this show. It is classic and brimming over with style and elegance no matter where you turn or when, no matter who holds center stage.
Directed by Billy Karl this is a fun filled romp into nostalgia, full of energy and lacking sentimentality. It tells it like it was or how we remember it. Music director Chris Hardin coxes the best from his performers, getting them to deftly, skillfully recreate the signing voices of this legendary crew.
Conductor Theodis Rodgers and the three piece orchestra is top notch, talented musicians who are dexterously able to artfully merge with the singers with grace and zest
. The lighting design by Joseph Glodek is effective and impressive. Art director Jeanne Quinn’s set is chic and sophisticated while remaining very simple.
There are so many gems here it simply oozes that kind of swagger and confidence that the original Rat Pack displayed in their performing, echoing the onstage respect and affection of the originals. There is genuine camaraderie here that is impossible to miss and delightful to behold. These guys work well together and the musicians backing them up are terrific.
It continues until June 22.