The Rat Pack Is Back October 9, 2009
By Glen Creason
With the early 60’s taking on some nostalgic glow due to current TV hits and the return of fashion from the days of vintage Vegas, the brotherhood of booze, cigarettes and late night carousing seems to have come back into popular culture. The “Rat Pack” with the vintage Vegas trappings seems like a show that offers a cool and crazy step back. So the entertainment “the Rat Pack Is Back” that took in a weekend at the Performing Arts Center was just what the Nielsen family ordered. The question was could four young actors really make you believe you were back at the Sands in ’61, watching Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop? The answer is yes and no. On the positive side the singing and comedy was very good and close to the originals but on the other side of the cocktail napkin ledger the infamous banter between the guys lacked the true spontaneity of these huge stars. The evening does have its charms but you won’t be completely moved to go out and get into your Cadillac El Dorado after the show and jump on the highway headed for the sight of that tall Vegas Vic looming up out of the Nevada desert. The big blasting band was excellent; especially the nine member horn section and the sets were certainly up to Vegas standards.
Drew Anthony has an uncanny resemblance to Dino, Kenny Jones has the manic mannerisms and sincerity of Sammy down pat and Brian Dupree as Frank can really sing like the Chairman in his prime. Also, Mickey Joseph as Joey Bishop took some really old comedic chestnuts and made them work with fine comic timing and all of the players were dressed to perfection. The first half was heavy on the Dean Martin with a medley of his winners like “That’s Amore,” “You’re Nobody Until Somebody Loves You,” and “Dance With Me” that young Mr. Anthony sang with the laid back Martin style. Jones brought out the Sammy dazzle and ripped a triple with “ That Old Black Magic,” a stirring “What Kind of Fool Am I” and “Mr. Bojangles” that made you want to check out the original on YouTube which is a compliment to the actor.
The show maintains some class along with all the somewhat dated booze and black guy jokes by using some great American songbook material including “Where or When,” “the Best Is Yet to Come,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “A Foggy Day in London Town” that were mostly sung by the talented Duprey as Sinatra. When the three singers got together and harmonized that was quite good, in particular on “My Shadow” and a ring a ding ding “Luck Be a Lady” that brought the best out in everybody. Yet the true highlights were the old boffo numbers that never got stale in real time, especially “My Way” and “New York, New York” that took you back not quite to the 60’s but certainly to the reign of Emperor Sinatra. While this Rat Pack might not have the millions in the bank that the originals did the show keeps you interested and the music carries it beyond the mere nostalgia of those halcyon days in Vegas.