It’s been 65 years since Frank Sinatra first appeared at the London Palladium and he was back tonight for a gala opening of his new show.
Celebs and VIPs turned out, some in black tie, for Sinatra, The Man & His Music. And what a diverse bunch they were – spotted were actors Lesley Joseph, Paula Wilcox and Anna Chancellor, hit swing group Jack Pack, Sex Pistols singer Glen Matlock, and, bizarrely, Sopranos star Stevie Van Zandt.
Perhaps they were expecting the great man to return from the grave for one final hurrah. He was, after all, the master of the final performance. Retirement was a dirty word.
I was curious as to what to expect as advanced publicity was deliberately vague.
The show is slick, sophisticated and very high-tech, using multi-media screens to give us Sinatra’s genuine performances – but it comes across as a retrospective for a star who had failed to attend his own tribute show.
The band, led by musical director and conductor Richard John, were exemplary. I wondered if they were using original arrangements to sync with Ol’ Blue Eyes but Gareth Valentine has come up with some superb new musical arrangements. The dancers were faultless, if a little bland.
But something , quite obviously, was missing. It would have been good to introduce a couple of guest performers to give the audience a body or two to look at.
Watching Sinatra sing on screen, and talk about his life in flashbacks from chat shows, no matter how expertly woven together, didn’t make up for the fact that we were watching a home movie.
We heard about his early life, the struggling formative years, the booze, the broads and the Las Vegas residency with the Rat Pack.
Of the women in his life we saw lots of snapshots of the beloved Ava Gardner and, later, Mia Farrow, but little of his first wife Nancy (although mention was made to his three kids, Tina, Nancy and Frank Jnr).
All the hits were featured. More than 30 tunes were visited with, of course, My Way and New York New York, worked up as a finale.
There was a tremendous trumpet solo (From The Bottom Of My Heart) from Mike Lovatt before the orchestra and dancers let rip with Sing, Sing, Sing.
You can’t offer up any judgement on the performance of the star. Hey, this is the Chairman of The Board, I wouldn’t dare. But I’d love to have seen a celebrity guest come on and sing one of his signature tunes as a homage.
The evening ended with daughter, Nancy Sinatra, and her statuesque daughter Mandy, coming on stage to give an emotional thank-you to the audience, performers and producer Karl Sydow.
“Two great legends!” she cried. “The Palladium and Frank. My dad loved London and it’s clear that London loves him.”
There were a lot of tears. There’s no denying that this unique show will find favour with fans. It’s almost as good as watching a live show – if only.
Sinatra, The Man & His Music runs at the London Palladium until October.
Sinatra, The Man & His Music
Frank Sinatra returns to the London Palladium in Sinatra, The Man & His Music, a sophisticated show that boasts “live” performances from Ol’ Blue Eyes accompanied by a superb band and a 20-strong team of dancers.