Regional Reviews: New Jersey
It's the 1960's Again:
Also see Bob's review of Pride's Crossing
If you hate ersatz entertainment and/or find the leering, sexist macho bad boy humor of the old Las Vegas distasteful, you hardly need anyone to tell you that this show is not for you.
This critic falls somewhere in between. It would be easy to list negatives and turn my nose up at the whole enterprise. You would likely respect me more. There is only one problem with that. I had a good time at NJPAC seeing this show. For anyone who enjoyed Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. or Dean Martin in nightclubs in their performing heyday, or enjoyed watching them on television and wished that they could have seen them in clubs, this re-creation will hit the spot.
It takes Stephen Triffitt, our Frank Sinatra who opens the show, a little while to warm up. Third number in, Triffitt calls our attention to the Nelson Riddle arrangement on the upcoming "I've Got You Under My Skin." I pay attention to the band, and, yes, it is great to hear that famous Riddle arrangement live. Now Triffitt is warmed up and his voice picks up a pleasing rough edge. So he doesn't particularly sound (or really look) like the Chairman of the Board, but he has a good voice, the right arrangements, and the right moves and intonations. Hey, why not enjoy what he got?
Next up, and easily the best of all, is David Hayes' Sammy Davis, Jr. Hayes has been doing it for so long that Sammy himself saw him do it. Perhaps a bit taller and handsomer than Davis, Hayes has a very strong resemblance to the real thing. He opens with solid renditions of "Once in a Lifetime" and "Mr. Bojangles." Vocally, Hayes is so on target that his final notes on "What Kind of Fool Am I?" sent shivers through me. Hayes also dances well, and does some terrific imitations, particularly Louis Armstrong, and, briefly, Dean Martin himself. Those few times, when Hayes doesn't get Sammy's sound just right, only serve to remind us how on target he is most of the time.
Most problematic of the Pack is the Dean Martin of Nigel Casey. Casey does not look at all like him. Although he has a nice clear voice of his own, it bears no resemblance to the unique, smooth style of Dino. However, his acting carried the day for me. What Casey does well is comic acting and timing, and he maximizes the laughs from the politically incorrect drinking and sexual innuendo related humor. There are three girl singers billed as the Burelli Sisters, and they sing back up mostly for him. Casey opens with "That's Amore" and "Sway."
As the show moves along, the music becomes part of a mosaic which includes a full panoply of routines, jokes, and parody and specialty lyrics. It is performed extremely well, and it can be amusing. Some of this material is insensitive and offensive.
Director/ Choreographer Mitch Sebastian has done a top flight job. The show feels spontaneous, moves at a fast clip, and is full of a great deal of performance detail.
The Rat Pack - Live at the Sands continues performances (Eves.: Nightly through Sat./Mats.: Thurs., Sat. & Sun.) at NJPAC Prudential Hall, One Center Street, Newark, NJ 07102. Box Office: 888-466-5722; online www.njpac.org/.
The Rat Pack- Live at the Sands directed by Mitch