It’s been 12 years since I first saw The Rat Pack Live and not much has changed. That’s not a bad thing if you’re going to see this tribute show for a love of the music.
The production, which opened its West End Christmas season at The Theatre Royal Haymarket last night, is full-on glamour, features a sensational band and three seasoned performers impersonating, with varying success, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr.
A number of topical Christmas songs have been added to the mix (to be removed after the festivities for the national tour) and the show features the trio’s best known numbers.
But there are times when the singers look, and sound, like they are simply going through the motions.
The production, barely altered since its inception, is now looking formulaic, tired and in need of a complete overhaul.
The banter between the entertainers hasn’t changed in more than a decade and it wasn’t very strong to start with.
The show needs a much stronger script. The gags aren’t funny and the men delivering them aren’t natural comedians.
Garrett Phillips, who is sharing the Sinatra role with Stephen Rashbrook and superb Blue Eyes’ veteran impersonator Stephen Triffitt, is a first-rate singer, and nails every number.
But he gives nothing away, concentrating so hard in getting the sound right that he forgets that acting is part of the gig.
And you’d have thought that after the years that David Hayes has been appearing as Sammy someone would have taught the guy to dance.
It’s embarrassing to watch the performer attempt some sort of very poor, soft shoe, shuffle when Davis was known for his tap dancing prowess.
I saw the entertainer in Las Vegas and his dancing was extraordinary. Dancing segments should be a major part of this show.
So it is left to the uber-charismatic Nigel Casey, who I first saw appear as Dino nearly a decade ago, to hold the production together.
He is terrific, enchanting the audience with a wolfish grin, a sparkle in his eyes and an over-indulgence of, well, something. The ladies in the stalls’ seats next to me were beside themselves. The man oozes charm and is an outstanding crooner.
Creator, director and choreographer Mitch Sebastian admits, in the programme notes, that The Rat Pack never shared the stage with female backing singers so he invented The Burelli Sisters to add sex appeal to the mostly macho production.
These foxy ladies, wearing not much except tight corsets and a bit of net, strut and totter about the stage in high heels, draping themselves over the arms of the men.
They endure being pawed during the show and have to parade in front of the three middle-aged singers, who ogle them, during Standing On The Corner.
That sort of thing can get you arrested these days but reflects how times have changed. Watching Dino slope off with his arm around one showgirl after another makes uncomfortable watching after recent showbiz revelations.
But the three girls – variously played by Amelia Adams-Pearce, Joanna Walters, Rebecca Parker and Laura Darton – are brilliant singers and their moments on stage are a real highlight.
It’s an entertaining show but I’d love Sebastian to throw out the format and rethink it with new routines, new dialogue and a new set.
Since it’s inception more than 15 years ago, there have been so many spin-off productions, that The Rat Pack Live now appears at weddings, birthday parties, restaurants, cruises and any number of large and small events, giving a good living to impersonators.
But this is being touted as the original show and it is big, blousy and bursting with musical standards, like New York, New York, The Lady Is A Tramp, Mr Bojangles, That’s Amore that are real crowd-pleasers.
In the New Year the production ditches the Yuletide segments to include Nicola Emmanuel appearing as Ella Fitzgerald. A minor adjustment but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
The Rat Pack Live, which uses a stable of performers as Sinatra, Martin, and Davis, is appearing at The Theatre Royal Haymarket until February 3 when it will be touring.
February 5 – 10, Glasgow King’s Theatre February 12 – 17, Liverpool Empire Theatre February 19 – 24, Manchester Opera House February 26 – March 3, Edinburgh Playhouse March 5 – 10, Eastbourne Devonshire Park Theatre March 13 – 17, Sunderland Empire Theatre March 19 – 24, Cardiff New Theatre March 26 – 31, Birmingham Alexandra Theatre April 23 – 28, Blackpool Grand Theatre April 30 – May 5, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre May 7 – 12, Darlington Civic Theatre
The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas
A glitzy, entertaining show, with the bonus of new Christmas numbers, but the format is looking tired and in need of a complete overhaul.