By Barry Reszel
Taking in Theatre at the Center’s production of My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, there’s a certain sense of, “I went to see a musical and a lounge act broke out.”
That said, two dapper men and two gorgeously elegant woman sporting professional-quality voices all, boosted by a phenomenal three-man combo (piano, bass and drums)…it’s a fine lounge act, indeed.
Blending Sinatra hits among the four accomplished singers, 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 numerous others. They’re organized into medleys allowing for more than 50 songs popularized by Ole Blue Eyes One over the course of two hours, intermission included.
Act 1 includes the following medleys and highlights: Favorites Medley “The Way You Look Tonight” and “I’ve Got the World on a String;” Broadway Medley “My Funny Valentine,” “Where or When,” “Makin’ Whoopie” and “I Get a Kick Out of You;” the Cities Medley “I Love Paris,” My Kind of Town” and “New York, New York;” Young Love Medley “I Believe” and “I Only Have Eyes for You;” Summer Medley “Summer Wind” and “Indian Summer;” and two Love and Marriage Medleys including “The Same Old Song and Dance,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “That Old Black Magic” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
Interspersing Sinatra stories throughout the robust songbook, Chicagoland favorite George Keating and partner McKinley Carter play well off one another, as do members of the younger couple, the magnificent Christine Mild (the strongest vocalist in the quartet) and newcomer Andres Enriquez, who has taken over for Eric A. Lewis in this production. While there is no distinct plot, the character’s actions create audience interest in attempting to figure out the two couples’ relationships. That’s a tribute to Director/Choreographer Brenda Didier‘s deft touch. (A full description of the characters, song lists and production history may be read here.)
Act 2 medleys and highlights include Losers Medley “One for My Baby” and “It Was a Very Good Year;” Big Flirt Medley “You Go to My Head” and “Young at Heart;” Moon Medley “Dream,” “Moonlight Serenade” and “Fly Me to the Moon;” Songs for Survivors “The Best is Yet to Come,” “I’M Gonna Live ‘Til I Die” and “That’s Life;” and closing all-quartet numbers “My Way,” “New York, New York” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
These songs are all performed in Designer Greg Pinsoneault‘s multi-leveled, stylish unit nightclub set that rightly puts the three-piece combo front and center. Though the show as a whole is a bit subdued, the musicianship of William Underwood (musical director on piano), Jake Saleh on bass (reprising his work on the same show at Theo Ubique last year) and Nick Anderson on drums is superb and noteworthy.
The performers are classically dressed in cocktail attire by Costume Designer Brenda Winstead. For the men, that means suits in Act 1 and dinner jackets with open bow ties in Act 2. But Winstead’s adornment of the two ladies is stunning. Carter’s subtly patterned emerald dress in Act 1 and garnet silk gown in Act 2, along with Mild’s eggplant silk in act 1 and lacy navy/black number in Act 2 are beautiful and memorable.
Unfortunately, also memorable are an abundance of mostly minor sound issues at the Feb. 22 performance that were distracting and disappointing. That, and the lack of a dominant near-Sinatra-sounding baritone.
But perhaps the greatest takeaway from this look into the life of the musical legend is that the production is much better suited for an intimate 50-seat cabaret than the 410-seat venue whose recent and future productions are full-scale musicals.
Still, TATC’s My Way is a fine lounge act, indeed.
Theatre at the Center presents “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” through March 19 at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN. More information and tickets are available here. Photos by Guy Rhodes.