Riverside Center Dinner Theater presents My Way; A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, who also provides the book for this production. Director/Choreographer Dennis Courtney works with a live band and a quartet of vocalists to create a lively revue of Sinatra’s work, and the result is a robust night of entertainment that any Sinatra fan would value.
Onstage, Scenic Designer Benjamin Burke frames a stocked bar with draped curtains under a chandelier of lights. A live band is seated atop a platform upstage, led by Musical Director and Conductor Steve Pryzybylski on the piano, David Long on the drums, and Joanna Smith on the bass. Lighting Designer Kathryn Moncure uses warm tones and selective spotlighting to complete the atmosphere; a 1950’s-style lounge where Frank himself would have been comfortable performing. Costume Designer Gaye Law keeps the wardrobe classy with an arrangement of cocktail dresses and suits and, later, going more formal with evening gowns and black-tie.
While anecdotes of Sinatra’s life are shared, there isn’t a plotline or impersonation of Sinatra to be seen in My Way. Vocalists Blaire Baker, Alex Canty, Stephanie Cowan, and Tim Russell bring his/her own distinct sound and range to Sinatra’s songs, and none of them sound anything like the famous crooner himself. I believe this to be a fully intentional; there was only one Sinatra, and the goal of this production is to respect his work, not replicate it. Over fifty of Sinatra’s songs are showcased throughout the evening – and to do this – only snippets of each song are shared, and the transitions between the songs are fluid and seamless, which I’m sure was a great challenge to construct.
Sinatra, an iconic cosmopolitan man who “had a song for every emotion and every season,” had a gargantuan catalogue– even the man himself never knew the exact number of songs that he recorded, though it is known to be at least a thousand. For this production, the chosen songs were lumped into topics, including love (both the highs and lows), travel, and seasons, among others. The vocalists were friendly and casual, making jokes and teasing each other between songs (I especially enjoyed how they playfully squabbled over the microphone during the number “High Hopes.”)
Sinatra’s classics were crowd favorites, including “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “New York, New York,” and “I’ve Got You under My Skin.” “Lean Baby,” a song that I was unfamiliar with, had a teasing choreography that made it very enjoyable. Although the same can be said about “Love and Marriage,” “The Best is Yet to Come” and “Fly Me to the Moon,” all of the songs were enjoyable.
While the songs are the main event here, there was another quality to the show that made it great– musings of Sinatra’s life and perfectly-timed quotes that made the audience feel closer to the artist himself. Sinatra was a man who enjoyed a good time, fine drinks, and women, which led to a full (and somewhat dramatic) life. I particularly liked a story of how Eva Gardner threw a gifted 6-carat ring out of the window of a moving car during an argument, never to be found to this day. Said Sinatra, “You only live once, and the way I do it, once is enough.”
Four exceptional vocalists, who have great stage presence, are paired with a trio of swingin’ musicians in Riverside Center Dinner Theater‘s enjoyable production of My Way – A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. It’s a lovely evening of entertainment, and a huge treat for Ole Blue Eyes’ fans, and music lovers alike.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
My Way – A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra plays through June 28, 2015 at Riverside Center Dinner Theater – 95 Riverside Parkway, in Fredericksburg, VA. For tickets, call (540) 370-4300.