Saturday evening, my wife and I attended a performance of The Rat Pack Tribute
at the Rosebud Theatre
in Effingham, Illinois. The show starred Gary Anthony as Frank Sinatra, Andy DiMino as Dean Martin and Louie Velez as Sammy Davis, Jr.
This was our first visit to the Rosebud, and it was quite impressive. Built in 2007, it boasts state of the art sound, lighting and video technology, luxurious seating, a comfortable lobby and a very nice VIP lounge where we enjoyed hors d'oeuvre and cocktails before the show (and during intermission).
The show was entertaining too. I have to admit that I'm not much on tributes of this sort, but this was a lot of fun. All three of the principals had great voices (Louie Velez was particularly outstanding) and had obviously worked through the mannerisms and affectations of the folks they portrayed.
For someone who was not intimately familiar with the genuine article, the production would do a creditable job of creating the illusion of a performance of the Summit, and I suspect that it would also spark further interest in the lives and music of Sinatra, Martin and Davis for the uninitiated. There was good interaction with audience members, there were decent renditions of the musical numbers and some unexpected and funny jokes.
As someone who is
intimately familiar with the genuine article, there were a few things about the production that made it less than satisfactory.
Firstly, the band was very small and many of the songs necessarily included either taped or digital components as well. The dynamics just weren't there to make it an exceptional musical experience. If nothing else, any "tribute" to these great entertainers ought to be at least that.
Secondly, if they were trying to capture (or at least portray) the magic of a particular time and place (say, The Sands
in the early 60s), the show included more than a few anachronisms and breaking of the third wall that were unsettling to me. As amazing as Louie Velez' rendition of The Candy Man
might have been, it seemed out of place - as did Gary Anthony's inclusion of Theme From New York New York
. I suppose that for the casual audience, it might have been a disappointment to have left the show without having heard some of the biggest hits associated with the artists being portrayed, but for me it ruined the illusion - as did the repeated references to that fact that all three of the artists have passed from this life. "The economy's so bad I had to come back and perform." "The formaldehyde is kicking in." For me, lines like those fell flat (although they seemed to delight some in our company that evening).
Finally, here is the problem with all such attempts to portray, to represent, or perhaps even to discuss the magic that was the Summit. Except for the memories of people who actually attended their performances, or the precious few primary documents of those performances, there is nothing that could possibly come close to the real thing.
I don't wish to seem overly critical, and will say once again that we enjoyed this performance. For a nice evening out and some light entertainment I'd recommend the show if it comes to your area, or if you have the opportunity to catch it sometime in Las Vegas.
I certainly look forward to returning to the Rosebud
. They've got a great lineup of shows throughout 2009, including legendary performers like Frankie Valli, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Merle Haggard.