Theater Reviews

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Wilshire Theatre, Beverly Hills
Through Dec. 16


In the early 1960s, when Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin were in their swinging prime, they appeared together at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas during the filming of "Ocean's Eleven." Their act had a distinctive flavor -- lots of chummy patter, horseplay and hip, dry humor -- mixed with some of the best singing and all-around entertaining to be found anywhere.

"The Rat Pack -- Live at the Sands" does a pretty fair job re-creating one of those evenings. It's a fun show that should satisfy most fans of these legendary performers, though talents vary onstage. The production, which originated in England (of all places) in 2000, ran for four years on London's West End.

The good news is that Sinatra, as channeled by look-alike Stephen Triffitt, has rarely sounded better. Triffitt opens the show with a classy "Luck Be a Lady," closes with a powerful and poignant "My Way" and in between sings several standards highlighted by a haunting rendition of "Angel Eyes." If you close your eyes, you'd swear that the chairman of the board is back in town.

David Hayes is a bundle of talent and energy as the irrepressible Davis. His "Mr. Bojangles" and "What Kind of Fool Am I?" are impressive, if a little studied. It can't be easy trying to capture Davis' gritty authenticity or that overflowing entertainer's heart that always seemed on the verge of bursting from the sheer pleasure of performance.

Nigel Casey's Dean Martin is a case of trying to act a part whose essence is to be easy and spontaneous. Casey is a bit too toothy and anxious to please for the astringent, blase "That's Amore" man. He does manage to find some laughs in Dino's drinking habits.

The Burelli sisters are successfully re-animated in the forms of Anna Carmichael, Lucie Florentine and Lucy Thatcher, who do a terrific job on Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing." These gals definitely have the swing. So does Andy Rumble at the piano, and the brassy big band sound of the Rat Pack Orchestra is spot on.

In the end, it's Sinatra's show to make or break, and Triffitt doesn't disappoint. He just keeps getting better as the evening goes on, and by the final number, his resemblance to Ol' Blue Eyes is actually kind of eerie. Mitch Sebastian directs.

THE RAT PACK -- LIVE AT THE SANDS
Paul Walden and Derek Nicol for Rat Pack Touring
Credits:
Director/choreographer: Mitch Sebastian
Set designer: Sean Cavanagh
Lighting designer: Mark Wheatley
Costume designer: Chris Woods
Music director: Andy Rumble
Creative vocal and music supervisor: Matthew Freeman
Cast:
Frank Sinatra: Stephen Triffitt
Sammy Davis Jr.: David Hayes
Dean Martin: Nigel Casey
Connie Burelli: Anna Carmichael
Martha Burelli: Lucie Florentine
Helavitia Burelli: Lucy Thatcher
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