Nancy Sasso Janis
“May you live to be 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine.” - Frank Sinatra
Berlin, CT - ‘My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra’ is running at The Connecticut Cabaret Theatre through Aug. 5. This review-style musical was created by David Grapes and Todd Olson to honor Sinatra and bring patrons on a musical journey from his early beginnings as a crooner in New York, to the bright lights of Las Vegas with the Rat Pack, to his final performances. The CCT production was produced and directed by Kris McMurray with musical direction by the incomparable TJ Thompson.
‘My Way’ is called a “celebration just as Ol’ Blue Eyes would have wanted it – a few stories, a few drinks, and plenty of knockout tunes.” There were just a few stories between the abundance of musical gems and the cast shared some drinks onstage for the final wistful numbers. Because the two singers and three-piece jazz band performed over fifty of Sinatra’s greatest hits, including “Strangers in the Night”, “Chicago”, “Fly Me To The Moon”, “That’s Life”, and, of course, “New York, New York,” there wasn’t time for much else, although the two did add some lovely dancing during a few of the pieces. It seemed especially appropriate that the show was performed in the CCT cabaret setting, even more so than usual.
There were many first-time audience members at the second performance, presumably attracted by the name Sinatra, and they loved this production. The couple at my table had not been to the venue for fifteen years, but made the trip to enjoy the romance of this classy tribute to one of their favorite singers with these two vocalist and the fabulous onstage band. I am hardly the biggest fan of the crooner and there were plenty of songs I had never heard before, but I enjoyed evening almost as much as they did.
Kris McMurray, CCT Artistic Director and owner, told us in his curtain speech that the theatre is celebrating its 20th year Anniversary with this production. The director remarked that unlike all too many other Sinatra tributes, ‘My Way’ doesn't try to replicate the sound of Sinatra, but instead presents the sounds of Sinatra. The first act included songs about locations, the seasons, and love and marriage. The second half opened with some songs that could be classified as downers, and songs from Sinatra’s concept album about the moon. “One More for the Road” by Mr. Escobar was a highlight for me.
This production featured only two vocalists sharing the singing duties, although other productions have used four. Kaite Corda (‘Addams Family,’ ‘Life Could Be a Dream’) and Jon Escobar (‘The Fantasticks,’ ‘Miss Abigail,’ ‘Life Could Be a Dream’) had to master a lot of lyrics and they did so beautifully. Ms. Corda, in a slinky black and white gown with a large slit up the side for dancing, proved that she can sing just about any type of music and do it well. Jon “Mr. Caliente’ Escobar is the complete package, a talented singer who can act and has charm to burn. The two had plenty of chemistry and were easy to watch for two hours.
“The Hoboken Three” made the score of Sinatra sound wonderful. On stage were music director TJ Thompson on keyboards, Jamie Sherwood on guitar, and drummer Tim Urso. All the musicians were skilled, but it struck me that Mr. Thompson was the only one who performed every single number. The vocalists sang together admirably for a handful of pieces, but for the most part alternated the songs. The drummer and guitar player sat out on more than a few hits for a quieter sound; only the music director played for the entire two acts as only he can. I found myself watching him play the treble clef on the upright piano and the bass line on the electric keyboard to his left without ever taking his eyes off the music on his piano. He truly is the consummate musician and was given what I thought to be the appropriate amount of recognition for that reality by everyone involved in the production.
James J. Moran provided the technical design and served as choreographer.
‘My Way’ is presented with a 15 minute intermission. July 7th thru August 5th, 2017 Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm Doors open at 7:15pm. Tickets are now on sale. ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS are accepted. To purchase tickets, please call the box office at 860-829-1248. Reservations are recommended. Ticket price $30.00 (plus tax). For more information, visit our website: http://www.ctcabaret.com/