Not an Edinburgh Festival has gone by these past few years without some form of Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack tribute show hitting the boards. I guess that is mainly down to the enduring popularity of the singer and his musi, that continues to span generations, increasing in popularity, and still shows absolutely no sign of fading out.
Frank Sinatra was more than just a singer, an actor and an entertainer – he was a show-business phenomenon, with perhaps only Elvis Presley and The Beatles achieving that supreme level of musical and cultural eminence.
However, for this particular production the combined writing, directing and producing talents of John Murray & Tony Delacata, have summoned up a brilliantly original take of a show that gives the audience an alternative look at the life and songs of Sinatra.
Not only do we have one actor/singer in the role of “Ol Blue Eyes” – but two! And they arrive on stage in the shape of Moray Innes (playing the older ailing crooner) and Alan Murrie (complete with immaculate tuxedo and equally immaculate phrasing) as Sinatra at his singing peak.
The plot opens with Sinatra lying in a hospital bed, wearily resigned to the fact that he does not have too many songs left in him. He then indulges in some witty banter with his young naive nurse, who is not too sure as to the enormity of the fame attached to her patient. This raises a few chuckles from the audience as she slowly, and gradually comes to recognise his importance as a man and as an entertainer. He begins to look back, telling her stories of his past: on the road singing with Harry James & Tommy Dorsey, his various marriages (although Mia Farrow is conspicuously absent from the conversations) his Las Vegas glory days with Rat Pack buddies like Dean Martin & Sammy Davis, and of course the songs. And what songs!
And this is where Alan Murrie steps into the spotlight, impeccably attired (complete with Sinatra’s signature red handkerchief) and with an easy confident style, he lifts the microphone and takes the audience on a tour of Sinatra’s greatest hits, ranging from the upbeat energising faultlessness of “Come Fly With Me” to the darkly melancholic, whisky soaked “One For My Baby…And One More For The Road”.
Both performers indulge their love of the man and his music, to the rapturous appreciation of the audience. And Mr Innes in particular, manages (no doubt with a great deal of practised skill) to capture Sinatra’s distinctive vocal inflections, in speech and song. Even at times, looking & sounding uncannily like him in his later years. Maybe it was just a trick of the spotlight?? But I was impressed nonetheless!
Anyway, for my money, you simply cannot go wrong with a show like this, as (whether you love him or loath him) Frank Sinatra was one of the towering figures of the 20th century. A man who redefined the art of singing a popular song, to the extent that all those who came after him and dared to tackle that style of singing (Harry Connick Jnr? Michael Buble? Robbie Williams!!!!!), will forever remain but pale and extraneous shadows of the original.
So if you love Frank Sinatra, and love his songs, give yourself a real musical treat and see this show. A simple but cleverly designed production that tells the story of the “Kid from Hoboken”, who conquered the world. And for many people, his will be the very last voice that they ever hear. A voice that sings of love, joy, pain, sorrow, romance – all done in his own extraordinary way.