#Tweetingit – 5* Timeless songs delivered with consummate ease. Proof that style never goes out of fashion. The Ratpack is back – get it while you can!
As a child growing up in the 70s, Sunday evenings followed a familiar ritual; my brothers and I would disappear upstairs as the chart countdown started at 5pm. As we were upstairs, my parents took control of the lounge; Mum relaxed with a snowball (advocaat and lemonade); while Dad put his records on: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin among many others. Our house had some wild sounds emanating from it; Bowie, Slade and T.Rex upstairs and the Rat Pack downstairs!
My Dad dropped the usual parental clichés, including his claim they don’t write songs like that anymore. He said I’d understand one day. Well, that day has long since come and gone; I now have the same respect and affection for this special genre. So I jumped at the opportunity to see the Rat Pack: Live from Las Vegas, a passionate love letter to the Great American Song Book.
The show imagines the legendary Las Vegas shows featuring Frank, Sammy and Dean. The original Rat Pack included Hollywood glitterati like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. But the drinking set later reduced to the trio we now recognise plus comedian Joey Bishop and actor Peter Lawford. While the Rat Pack worked together in films, the stage equivalent happened by accident when they began crashing each other’s shows. Duets and improvised routines soon created a new show. Three icons on stage proved to be dynamite and a legend was duly born. Unfortunately, there is little film
evidence of their heyday in Las Vegas so leaves ample room for interpretation.
Of course, we have the songs, arrangements and magnetic personalities to draw on; but every gag, trip and gaff has to be planned for the modern stage version, whereas the original players would have winged it to death. But you are left with the impression they get as close to the real thing as humanly possible. To ensure variety, the Burelli Sisters provide vocal backing. Close harmonies styled on the Maguire Sisters give the sound added depth against an excellent orchestra. A useful addition to the show’s format is the tribute to Ella Fitzgerald marking the centenary of her birth in 1917.
The running order was thoughtfully planned with a good mix of solo, duet and ensemble numbers. First on stage was chairman of the board Frank Sinatra played by Garrett Phillips who performed a solid medley of songs, including I’ve got you under my skin and You Make Me Feel So Young. Garrett perfectly captured Frank’s intonation and demeanour that showed he was boss. David Hayes is cast in the most challenging role as Sammy Davis Jnr, arguably the greatest all-round entertainer ever to have lived. Sammy mastered every discipline in the performing arts including impressions and stand-up. David ticked at least four boxes including a wickedly good impression of Louis Armstrong. He followed Frank with two beautifully delivered versions of that old black magic and Mr Bojangles.
The Burelli Sisters were comprised of Joanna Walters, Rebecca Parker and Amelia Adams-Peace. They looked and sounded stunning with an immaculate rendition of it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. The ground was now prepared for the entrance of final pack member – direct from the bar – Dean Martin! Played by Kieron Crook, he easily mastered Dean’s languid, drunken persona. Throwing a single rose into the audience he launched into Dean’s three biggest hits; That’s amore, Sway, and Everybody Loves Somebody. There was some great interplay between all three as they
traded gags and sang duets on shall we dance and style. Frank closed act one with a cool segue between the two most famous songs about New York.
The opening section of Act two belonged to Dean with the wonderful volare proving to be a standout. The chat between songs was peppered with the usual selection of booze-related gags (‘I’d hate to be a tee-totaller: you wake up in the morning knowing that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day’).
Frank introduced the excellent Nicola Emmanuel as Ella Fitzgerald, who gave a stunning interpretation of the first lady of jazz. She skilfully tackled the Cole Porter classic night and day before duetting with Frank and Sammy: they made the Lady is a Tramp and S’wonderful sound like they had just been written. Ella also sang a blinding version of Mack the Knife before the glorious finale began with the outrageously cool That’s Life. Frank closed the show with what else but my way.
It comes as no surprise that the show has played regularly since its creation in 2002, and now holds a unique record of playing in eight different West End venues. I’ve seen the show on several occasions and always been entertained by it. It manages to stay fresh by the sheer quality of songs and performance. It will always be a delight to watch the guys in action. Now if only I could be as cool as they are!?
Director/Choreographer: Mitch Sebastian
Producers: Paul Walden and Derek Nicol for Flying Entertainment
Musical Director: Matthew Freeman
Booking Link: https://tickets.trh.co.uk/WEBPAGES/EntaWebShow/ShowPerformance.aspx
Box Office: 020 7930 8800
Booking until: 3 February 2018