Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey & Dean
Tribute is a show for those people who are crazy for nostalgia of the famous Rat Pack. I was part of the film crew who worked on the Oceans 11 film in Las Vegas in 1960 and I got to know Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Frank Sinatra very well. I was also privileged to see this quartet of infallible entertainers on the stage several times. Each night it was almost a different show. Let's face it, no one can ever replace those four fabulous entertainers.
Andy Dimino (Dean Martin), Louie Velez (Sammy Davis Jr.), Tom Tiratto (Frank Sinatra Jr) and Sandy Hackett (Joey Bishop) all have very good vocal chops when presenting the swinging melodies of the '60s, and I enjoyed hearing the great songs from that marvelous period. However, I did not get the charisma that the original men had on the stage of the Sands. That certain ring-a-ding-ding style is missing. Maybe it's because we're in a theatre, with people sitting stiffly with no drinks in their hands. This type of show just plays better in a club with a bottle of wine or a few drinks on the table.
Tribute was written and directed by Sandy Hackett, son of legendary comedian Buddy Hackett. In fact, the voice of his deceased father, as God, opens the show. He commands the ghosts of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop (though he is still alive) to re-create the famous Rat Pack shows. They are supposed to go to Las Vegas but somehow land in San Francisco. (Big mistake to bring in local landmarks just make the locals happy).
Andy Dimino as Dean Martin is the best of the quartet. He really has the manner, presence and voice of Dino down pat. He charms the audience with his laid back manner, always with a drink in his hand. Many of the shaggy jokes, such as "I'm on a new whisky diet, so far I have lost four days," are great zingers (though it's a known fact that Dean really never drank that much). His opening song, "When You're Drinkin'" (the whole world smiles at you), gets the audience laughing. Of course, he sings his famous "Amore" and has the audience join in. His rendition of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" is spot on and he does a good duet with Louis Velez singing "Sam's Song," slyly making it "Dean's Song."
Louis Velez is a stocky Sammy Davis Jr. with the nervous manner of this great entertainer. He jumps, moves and has high energy as Sammy did in those great days in Las Vegas. Velez, who has a distinct voice, does very well imitating the vocals of the original artist. However, the theatre sound system was turned up too loud for this voice and sometimes we could hear a strain in his louder notes. This was especially true when he ended "What Kind of Fool Am I?" Velez is part of the Las Vegas show and will probably be flying back to sin city to join the show at the Greek Isle Casino.
Tom Tiratto as the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, has a great voice when singing Sinatra's classic songs like "Fly Me to the Moon," "Lady is a Tramp," "Luck Be a Lady" and of course "My Way." However, he does not have any of the "ring a ding ding" look of ole blue eyes. He looks straight laced and stiff on stage; he is no swinging Sinatra.
Sandy Hackett as Joey Bishop has a true comedian's demeanor and he plays the audience like a violin. He has some of the greatest naughty stories, fit only for audiences with an R or maybe an X rating. They are not political correct but of course they weren't in the '60s, were they?
The big disappointment for the audience now in its second week is the disappearance of the Marilyn Monroe character. She appeared during the first week, coming into the audience and singing "Happy Birthday" to an elderly patron every night. However, I was informed that the theatre decided she was better in a night club and off she went back to Las Vegas show.
Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey & Dean has been extended through January 8 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post Street, San Francisco. The show will reopen on Tuesday, February 7, 2006 at San Francisco's Marines Memorial Theatre, where it plans an open-ended engagement. For tickets call 415-771-6900, visit any Ticketmaster outlet or visit ticketmaster.com.