The first National Tour of My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, presented Feb. 6 by Encore Attractions and The Carolina Theatre at The Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC, was a swinging salute to Francis Albert Sinatra (1915-98), a.k.a. "Old Blue Eyes," a.k.a. "The Chairman of the Board."
Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson and originally created for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre by Gary Wayne Golden, My Way concentrates on the Sinatra songbook, and its adoring starstruck narrative by Todd Olson whitewashes the controversial singer and actor's occasionally boorish behavior and lifelong associations with gangsters. Instead, My Way focuses on songs to soothe the broken heart — songs sung in the Sinatra style with no attempt made imitate each and every one of the master's trademark vocal mannerisms.
Director Michael Licata and choreographer Rex Henriques staged My Way with great style and wit; and an onstage trio of musical director Jason Loffredo (piano), John Convertino (standup bass), and Rick Donato (drums) really provided high-octane accompaniment.
Scenic designer Bradley Kaye created a set suitable for a first-class nightclub act, lighting designer Jeremy Isaacs skillfully lit even the most intimate moments, and costume designer Glenn Avery Breed outfitted the cast in an eye-catching array of glad rags.
In phrasing and skill in bending a lyric or a note to make a musical point, Steve Parmenter reminded us most of the wonderful way that Sinatra caressed a lyric — from his debut performances as a big-band singer in 1939 until right before those last ill-advised concert appearances that he made after his voice had lost its elasticity and was subject to cracking as he strained to hit high notes that he previously hit effortlessly.
Les Lankhorst was a strong singer with a fine feel for comedy, sultry Nancie Sanderson provided sexual tension and comic relief, and Natalie Silverlieb also added a dash of humor and a dollop of heartbreak to this young and highly talented quartet. During the evening, they sang all or part of nearly 60 of Frank Sinatra's greatest hits, including "Come Fly With Me," "I Love Paris," "Strangers in the Night," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "That's Life," "New York New York" and, of course, "My Way." They gave the audience more, much more than its moneysworth.
My Way won't please the purists who expect a Hollywood Confidential-type narrative; but as a simple salute to the Man and His Music, My Way ranked A-Number One, top of the heap with last Friday night's audience, which gave the show a hearty standing ovation.
The Carolina Theatre: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/. My Way: http://www.summerwindproductions.com/My%20Way.html.