Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
Reviewed by Matt Forrest
The last time I witnessed a Frank Sinatra tribute act was on a boozy night at the Edinburgh Fringe: it was an unorthodox interpretation of Ol’ Blue Eyes as on that occasion Sinatra had been crossed with Adolf Hitler, to give us Frank Sanazi… not the normal interpretation you’re used to seeing but one that left a lasting impression, believe you me. With that in mind, The Rat Pak – Live from Las Vegas would have to go along away to leave its mark, and by and large it succeeds.
The premise is a simple one: a recreation of the legendary Rat Pack shows from The Sand Hotel. In addition to Sinatra, we have Dean Martin (Nigel Casey) and Sammy Davis Junior (David Hayes). However to ensure that this isn’t an all ‘boys club’, we have the addition of the fictional Burrelli Sisters, (Amelia Adams-Pearce, Rebecca Parker, and Joanna Walters) and the welcome addition of The First Lady of Song Ella Fitzgerald (Nicola Emmanuel).
Opening with a cheeky dig at Sinatra’s alleged links to organised crime, we are introduced to Matthew Freeman and his 12 piece band, followed by Garret Philips as Sinatra. Instantly you can’t help but notice how Philips not only sounds like but also looks like him. Opening with versions of several Sinatra standards which include I’ve Got You Under My Skin and Goody Goody, Philips is in fine voice and commands every inch of the stage. What struck me was how clinical and cold his performance was, and I mean that as compliment because throughout the evening we see his persona begin to thaw as he begins to interact with his fellow ‘rat-packers’ and get into the swing of things, reminiscent of some of the concert footage I have seen of Sinatra.
Throughout the show, the cast all get their moment in the spotlight: Hayes does a remarkable job of Mr Bojangles, which drew audible approval from the audience, whilst Casey’s introduction as Martin adds some needed mirth and merriment to proceedings with a suitably laid back version of That’s Amore.
Both Hayes and Casey have difficult tasks for two different reasons: Hayes has to try and capture the energy and spirit of Davis Junior, whilst Casey has to embody the seemingly shambolic, slapstick side of Martin. Both achieve this perfectly, especially Casey who never fails to raise a smile every time he arrives on stage.
Following the interval the show certainly takes a lighter turn, with more focus on humour and variety as the ‘rat pack’ boys perform duets with one another, as well as pull pranks and lark about. One area in which the show does have a few issues is that some of the humour, despite being of that time is certainly outdated: it could be argued that if you are going bring these shows to life then some of these childish, slightly racist and sexist ‘quips’ are needed, however the show would benefit if it found a different way of projecting humour into the show.
We are soon introduced to Emmanuel, as Fitzgerald who raised the roof off the Opera House with a fantastic rendition of Night and Day, followed up by a glorious rendition of The Lady Is A Tramp. Emmanuel has a cracking voice and certainly lights up the stage. The only real complaint I have is that more could have been made of her part in the show.
The show concludes with all the cast belting out Mack The Knife which is fabulous, somewhat inevitably it is left to Phillips to have the final world with a spine tingling version of My Way, which brings the house down and has everyone on their feet.
Overall a fun and hugely entertaining night out which will have you tapping your feet and clicking your fingers; alas upon leaving the theatre I wasn’t stepping out into the hot Las Vegas heat, but the cold Manchester air.
The Rat Pack-Live From Las Vegas is on at Manchester Opera House until 24th February, tickets available here.