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A CurtainUp London Review
Sinatra the Man and His Music
However, by using technically sharpened up video from Sinatra's life, we can see every expression on his face. Without the benefit today of You Tube videos this would be an exceptional treat but when you add good sound, a 24 piece live orchestra, outstanding video backdrops and the London Palladium, where Sinatra appeared, it does make you feel as if you have the man himself.
The biographical detail is in his own words, with Sinatra telling us about his birth and his grandmother at his birth getting him to breathe. He perforated an eardrum at birth which kept him out of the military. These recollections are accompanied by evocative sepia photographs of the shops of Hoboken New Jersey, Sinatra's birthplace. There are more spoken details about his career, his four marriages including his first wife and mother of his three children, Nancy Barbarto Sinatra, wonderful pictures of the beautiful Ava Gardner, Mia Farrow and Barbara Sinatra.
The opening number is "Fly Me To The Moon" with dancers dressed as air hostesses and flight captains. It is slightly incongruous watching the miniaturised dancers and the large elongated screen facials of Sinatra, as if he is a singing Gulliver in a world of dancing Lilliputians. Behind are shots of aeroplanes taking off and landing and then astrological symbols from a chart of the heavens tumbling. The initial screens are drop down but later some of the film of Sinatra has been blended with backdrop photographs which is visually really effective.
"It Was A Very Good Year" is interposed throughout the show at the right time in Sinatra's life — at 17, at 21, at 35 and later "in the autumn of the years". This song is so meaningful and Sinatra conveys an emotional depth to the nostalgic lyrics that this was my favourite in the show. Set in a bar with a filmed bartender busing behind the bar, "One For My Baby" has Sinatra acting the words like someone drowning their sorrows alone in the early hours and giving the song a real punch.
Most of the film of Sinatra is in black and white but often the background has been coloured to link it to the stage set which is technically and visually exciting. "Pennies From Heaven" sees it raining and the raindrop exploding in bursts of orange. We hear about his supporting acting role in <From Here To Eternity for which he won an Oscar. Songs from wartime show pictures of the troops and families saying goodbye, sometimes forever.
The production has been well planned with amazing love songs "I Got You Under My Skin" with photographs of Ava Gardener. The Las Vegas scenes have playing cards to "Luck Be A Lady" and there are photographs of the members of the Rat Pack. "The Lady is A Tramp" sees the dancers dressed as film star icons. "My Funny Valentine" is accompanied by pictures of Sinatra with Mia Farrow.
"New York, New York" has show girls in feathers and an older Sinatra now in full colour before building up to Sinatra's definitive signature song, "My Way". On the whole, although the dancers are very proficient, I found the choreography distracting rather than enhancing.
I felt as if I had seen the man himself in this richly textured show with its exciting technical imagery and the music which doesn't seem to date with its charming interpretation. Sadly we couldn't call for a sung encore!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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