Review of “My Way: A Tribute to the Music of Frank Sinatra”
Review by Kathleen Lamorelle
What a trip down Memory Lane! Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ presentation of My Way: A Tribute to the Music of Frank Sinatra, created by David Grapes and Todd Olson and arranged by Vince di Mura, is a chance to revisit the life and music of the iconic crooner while singing along to the toe-tapping tunes of ‘ol Blue Eyes! With enthusiasm and energy, three couples sing and dance their way through a catalog of Sinatra’s music, sharing facts, anecdotes, and notable quotes along the way, all accompanied by live music. Organized into themes throughout Sinatra’s life and lyrics, such as Women, Love, Marriage, Drinking, Survival, and The Blues, the show makes it clear that Sinatra did not simply give lip service to his quote, “You only live once, and the way I live it, once is enough.”
While a plethora of famous songs such as “All of Me,” “Funny Valentine,” “Chicago,” and “My Life” fill the theater, the lesser-known tunes showcase Sinatra’s broad talent, as well as that of the performers. Interestingly, when a female is the lead vocalist, the song becomes fresh and new with her interpretation. Emily Carroll-Martin’s confidence, timing, attitude, and clear voice is a delight throughout the show, leaving the audience wanting more. At times, Savannah Boyd commands the stage both physically and vocally. Therefore, it was a bit disappointing when her voice was drowned out by the ensemble, particularly during an emotional rendition; better to let her voice shine for impact.
Side-by-side, wonderfully swagger-filled performances by Matt Dentino and Elliot Handkins are like watching both Youthful and Mature Sinatra, simultaneously. Very cool effect, Director Douglas Berlon! Other highlights include Donald Washington’s flirty version of “Makin’ Whoopee,” a quartet’s performance of “Dream,” with its smooth, blended harmonies, a movie-style duet of “Something Stupid,” and the lively “New York, New York” chorus line.
A definite highlight of the show is the live band, a trio of musicians directed by the talented and enthusiastic Greg Dastillung (piano and music director). Jan Diehl deftly slides up and down the scale with his walking bass, but also delights on saxophone and flute. Hayden Floro (percussion), a graduate from UC’s College Conservatory of Music, seamlessly moves between swing, jazz, blues, and pop tempos.
The minimalist setting, a period-themed nightclub with its requisite bar and crooner’s stage, allows the audience to fully focus on the performers. Having the Big Band perform from the stage (as opposed to in an orchestra pit) brings authenticity to the setting and completes the visual effect. Vintage spotlights highlight individual singers as in the old days.
“Classy style” summarizes the aesthetic. The females are in colorful party dresses which swirl and flash during energetic dance numbers, particularly Ashley Olivia Morton, whose dance skills are highlighted throughout. Later, the ladies wear elegant black gowns, setting a more nostalgic mood. The men dress to impress with perfectly coiffed hair, smart dinner jackets, and polished shoes – the Sultan of Swoon would approve. The iconic smoking jacket worn by Tim Perino during his fabulous performance of “All of Me” surely brings back fond memories for the audience.
If you sway to the sound of Big Band, Swing or Jazz, are entertained by well-choreographed dancing, light humor, and story-telling and if you would enjoy ninety minutes of happy reminiscing, then “The Best is Yet to Come!” Go see My Way, playing at the Covedale Theater through October 9th. Younger fans of Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Sam Griffiths, and Harry, Connick, Jr. will enjoy this show; bring them along! For tickets go to https://www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com/ccpa/.