The Rat Pack is a difficult production to classify. Certainly not a drama and not quite a straight music show, it recreates one of the Rat Pack’s glitzy Las Vegas club nights in the late 50s or early 60s, featuring the musical and comedic talents of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. All the great hits are there from My Way and New York, New York to Sway and That’s Amore, making this a must-see for diehard fans.
However, the show loses something in its transfer from the glamorous, boozy setting of a 50s Vegas nightclub. Whilst it would be absolutely superb with an audience chatting round tables, cocktail in hand and gladrags on, as it was originally conceived, there is simply not enough going on visually to engross an audience sitting silent and still in a theatre for two hours. The fault lies in the premise of the show which only recreates the Vegas atmosphere on one side of the stage, failing to take into account the very different needs of a modern-day theatre setting.
This is a shame as the actors and musicians are evidently very talented and the singing and playing cannot be faulted. Tam Ward, Mark Adams and Matthew Henry as the all-singing, all-dancing trio are to be applauded for their performances, from their soulful crooning to their energetic bantering. They all three had a wonderful sense of comic timing and convincingly impersonated their respective characters. Mark Adams was particularly credible as Dean Thomas whilst the showstopper of the night was definitely Matthew Henry’s spine-tingling rendition of Mr Bojangles.
More’s the pity that The Rat Pack cannot quite work out what it wants to be. In its current set up it requires a more informal Vegas atmosphere for the audience. If it wants to work as a stage show, it needs more spectacle, more dancing or more drama to hold the audience’s interest and not just the tired visual gags resorted to in the flagging second half. The music is fantastic, the jokes funny, and the performers talented, but this is simply not enough by itself.
That said, with Frank Sinatra’s albums alone still selling at a rate of a million a year, The Rat Pack, despite all its flaws, will no doubt prove popular – and for fans happy with what basically boils down to a dramatised soundtrack, there is no reason why it should not provide an enjoyable evening’s entertainment. One thing is for certain: whatever the merits or faults of the show, you’ll be humming the tunes to yourself all the way home and for many days to come.