By Barry Reszel
Wrapped in the freneticism of holiday season 2015-16, when those with no greater worries choose to allow unassuming red coffee cups to bunch their (probably very boring) underwear, small house musical theatre genius Fred Anzevino and his stellar Musical Director Jeremy Ramey gift audiences a night of contemplative reverie with their extraordinarily lovely presentation of My Way…a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra.
Set in the 50-ish seat No Exit Cafe on the Evanston/Chicago border, Anzevino’s Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre hosts what feels like the perfect, classy New Year’s Eve party nearly every night between now and January 10. There are 46 reasons (one for each song) to gather a gang of pals and go to this party (dinner packages and a full bar are offered).
Blending Sinatra hits among four accomplished singers and three stellar musicians, the revue by David Grapes and Todd Olson, includes music by many of this country’s greatest composers: Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Glenn Miller, Paul Anka and a plethora of others. One is more exquisite than the next when played by Ramey on piano, Jake Saleh on bass and Kevin Brown on drums.
They’re all performed in Designer Adam Veness‘ simply stylish nightclub set, enhanced by Ole Blue Eyes’ signature and subtle portrait. The performers are classically dressed by Costumer William Morey, with the men in white dinner jackets and ladies in cocktail attire, helping to send audiences decades back, to the days when all celebrities boasted real talent and, as Rat Pack companion Dean Martin said about his friend, “This is Frank’s world. We all just live in it.”
Under Anzevino’s fine direction, the four actors/singers carefully move about—telling stories, dancing (well choreographed by Maggie Portman), offering insights into Sinatra’s legend, sharing some laughs along with a few tender moments and (most importantly) singing extremely well.
Gorgeous Kyrie Anderson (most recently seen in Theo’s Blood Brothers) and handsome Christopher Logan (Baliwick’s Murder Ballad and Theo’s Passion among his many credits) join two powerhouse newbies, Caitlin Boho and Carl Herzog to croon, scat, doo-wop and morph into different parts of Sinatra’s personality through his songs.
Herzog’s gorgeous voice closely imitates the original, and his renditions of well-known hits, “The Way You Look Tonight,” “All of Me,” “That’s Life,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Summer Wind,” “It Was a Very Good Year” and many others are among the greatest treats of the performance.
But this delightful revue is much more than mere impersonation. Numerous stellar moments feature the eminently comfortable, professional Logan (“Making Whoopie” is a personal highlight); Boho, the soulful powerhouse with a volcanic belt (“My Funny Valentine” is among her best); and idyllic soprano/ingenue-type Anderson (who jazzes it up with a terrific rendition of “You Go to My Head”). Adding a variety of duets (“Beautiful Girls” by the two men stands out) trios and all-cast numbers (closing song, “My Way,” is extraordinarily touching) keeps the production perfectly paced.
In the midst of this run, December 12, Sinatra fans celebrate the storied singer’s 100th birthday. Though he died in 1998, he often wished his fans, “May you live to be 100; and may the last voice you hear be mine.” In a sense, Theo’s My Way…a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra grants Sinatra his own desire.
More importantly, it gives Chicagoland musical theatre patrons a wonderfully peaceful holiday gift; the strong recommendation here is to unwrap it now.
“My Way…a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” is presented through January 10 by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood, Chicago. More information and tickets are available online here.