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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 9.15.11

 

Pure Witchcraft

Actors Cabaret shows Sinatra love in My Way

by Brit McGinnis

Frank Sinatra was a self-diagnosed “18-karat manic depressive,” according to his obituatry in The New York Times. He loved women, perhaps too much. He loved his Scotch and bourbon, definitely too much. There is an unglamorous melancholy to Sinatra that often goes unsung. Behind the razzle dazzle, this son of Italian immigrants wanted to sing good songs. He wanted to make art, and do it right.

This is evident throughout My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, a musical revue playing at the Actors Cabaret of Eugene. From the blue light blanketing the vintage-Vegas-chic set to the elegant, untrendy dress of the six performers, an appreciation for the man behind the legend runs through My Way.

The artists on stage are all smiles, and more than happy simply to sing the songs — there’s no icy distance between them and the audience. Director Joe Zingo creates a warm and passionate atmosphere, creating a refreshing breeze of fresh air as we move into the fall theatrical season.

All six singers are pros, no mistaking that. Each is gifted with a unique vocal style, and each exhibits the self-possession required to sing Sinatra. It’s a pity the show uses recorded piano music — every singer had a moment of frustrated constraint with the preordained score. Song transitions proved difficult for some. All small kinks, however, and hopefully they’ll be ironed out in future productions.

The trio of male singers personifies the different personas Sinatra assumed over the course of his long career. Bespectacled tenor Tony Coslett embodies the Smooth Operator — his rendition of “Makin’ Whoopee” evokes laughter and blushing at the same time. Brent Anderson plays the Rat Pack crooner, the very definition of dapper in his rendition of “Summer Wind.” Kevin Boling is the perfect Seasoned Performer, though as the deepest-voiced gent on stage he was deprived of the more plum numbers on Sinatra’s song list. But Boling’s “One For My Baby” was absolutely bewitching, and he nailed “My Way” like nobody’s business.

The women, for their part, are utterly comfortable on stage, proving themselves as adept as their male counterparts in singing Sinatra. Young vocalist Megan Hammon struggles to fit her Broadway-style voice into the format, but she is an excellent partner to Coslett. Thankfully, Erica Jean is able to effectively step outside the cheeky diva sterotype she’s filled in recent months. Jean is delicate and graceful on “You Go To My Head,” avoiding a pure sex kitten routine. 

But most notable among the female vocalists is the intriguing alto Michelle Sellers, who toys with the notes, adding in vibrato as coyly as a burlesque dancer. Ol’ Blue Eyes himself might have sent over a martini upon hearing Sellers’ rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”

An aura of camp surrounds the Sinatra legacy, and the cast openly taps into it on numbers like “New York, New York.” They seem more than pleased just being jazz geeks, and this gives the show its spark. These singers understand Sinatra through and through, and their profession of love falls lovely on the ear.

My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra runs through Sept. 30 and Oct. 1-15 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene; tickets at www.actorscabaret.org or call 683-4368.