The Rat Pack: Live at the Sands | 12.06-18.11

theat rat-pack_75As a showcase for mid-20th century pop music and holiday tunes, this is a worthy and comprehensive show.

 

The Fox Theatre, St. Louis

theat rat-pack_500

There’s more than one way of skinning a hep cat, and the problems with The Rat Pack: Live at the Sands now running at the Fabulous Fox Theatre prove that it’s probably best not to mix your methods. As a showcase for mid-20th century pop music and holiday tunes, this is a worthy and comprehensive show. As a tribute to Frank Sinatra (played by alternate Alex Banks at the December 8 performance), Dean Martin (Mark Adams), and Sammy Davis, Jr. (Giles Terera), it also mostly works. But if you’re expecting actual imitations of the Big Three, then you’ll be partly disappointed. The exception is Adams, who is spot on as Martin.

The re-creation of Martin is aided by the fact that his voice and body language are simply more imitable than the other two. Sinatra didn’t do all that much (after his early film career) beyond sing, and his voice sounds simple but is hard to duplicate. Banks is a strong singer, but he doesn’t sound like Frank. And Terera gives Davis his best shot, but who could possibly do justice to the most versatile entertainer we’ve seen? He manages to come close to replicating Sammy’s voice. He strikes typical Davis poses and sort of pretends to dance and do a couple of impressions, but he’s just out of his league.

The Burelli Sisters sing backup, dance a bit (even as reindeer), strike lovely poses, and always improve the view. Their voice blend is terrific; in close harmony, they really do sound like they sprang from the same gene pool, but they are apparently unrelated. Helevitia (Soophia Foroughi), Connee (Grace Holdstock), and Martha (Frankie Jenna) look like Erté illustrations from an old Vogue spread when they glide about in their brilliant red gowns and long gloves. They add a lot of visual and aural interest to the overly long show, as well.

The set by Sean Cavanagh is enhanced by a huge Christmas tree and the ever-changing light palette designed by Mark Wheatley keeps the eye busy. Direction and choreography are by Mitch Sebastian and Matthew Freeman is credited as music supervisor. The instrumental music is the real high point and backbone of the show. The so-called “Rat Pack Band,” a 12-piece orchestra comprised of local musicians and led from the stage by tour music director Dominic Barlow on piano, is, to my ears, the best part of the show.

High points from the principal performers included Terera’s “Mr. Bojangles” (which didn’t sound much like Sammy but was good), “New York, New York” by the group as the first-act closer, and all the numbers (the big hits like “Volare” and “Everybody Loves Somebody “ are there) byAdams. In Act II, Banks seemed to have found his groove momentarily with “My Kinda Town,” and again,Adamsis great on “When You’re Drinkin’,” “King of the Road,” “Mambo Italiano,” and “That’s Amore.” There is also a very long Christmas medley right before the last couple of numbers, preceded by Sammy’s duet on another medley sung with the drummer. It was an impressive effort and the drummer was excellent.

The Fox is careful to warn us in advance about inappropriate antics onstage—“adult” language, humor from a time that wasn’t always “politically correct,” and drinking and smoking. The performers did the latter two (or pretended to) and there were a few jokes in questionable taste (if you know anything about the Rat Pack, you’ve heard ’em all before) but the only nod to vulgarity was a gesture. Frank, Dean, and Sammy made a point never to refer to themselves as “The Rat Pack,” so to hear it from the stage was a bit jarring: They preferred “The Summit” or “The Clan,” but of course, they’ll always be the “Rat Pack” to us. You could take your grandmother to this show—and you probably should. | Andrea Braun

Visit the Fox Theatre website for more information, including show dates, times, and ticket prices. The Rat Pack: Live at the Sands runs through December 18.

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