Note: The following review dates from March 2003 and this production's first West End season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
The doors of the Theatre Royal Haymarket are currently doubling as a portal to the swinging sixties. On the 18th-century stage a very 20th-century rostra of white steps holds a 15-piece orchestra and a baby grand lit with a kaleidoscope of brilliant colours. It seems rather odd then that, here at the Sands hotel Las Vegas, we're sat in pews rather than at cocktail tables.
The original Rat Pack consisted of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and were so christened by Lauren Bacall. We are treated to an evening with the first three, the A-list nucleus of the real-life hell-raisers.
Banners displaying the real McCoys' portraits watch over the stage and, as a trio of impersonators appear, it's impossible not to compare. None of them are exactly doppelgangers. In fact, it's not until they start to sing when resemblances become really striking. Then, slowly, we begin to feel in the presence of greatness, as close to the late Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr as we'll ever now get.
Winner of Stars in their Eyes in 2000, Ole Blue Eyes' double Stephen Triffitt boasts a voice that's astoundingly accurate, and he combines it with Sinatra-esque mannerisms creating an enchanting and convincing portrayal. Mark Adams has just the right amount of suave capriciousness as Dean Martin and a menacing edge. While George Long's energetic Davis Jr charms with his enthusiasm.
You can't fail to enjoy the trios' renditions of classics like "The Lady Is a Tramp", "Mr Bojangles", "One for the Road" and "Volare", and director Mitch Sebastian does well to keep the proceedings informal. It all feels nicely improvised and immediate, rather like an actual Sands concert must have been.
On the negative side, the choreography of the backing singers lacks polish and finesse and they're decked out in unnecessarily risqué costumes. More off-putting are the array of racist jibes Davies Jr is subjected to by his peers - reminding us, even in such a joyous bygone bash as this, that not everything about the past was good.
Untaxing in every way, I've no doubt this tribute show will attract a much different audience than the Haymarket is normally accustomed to - more nostalgia-hungry than theatre-keen - but that doesn't detract from an evening that's easy listening, easy watching and seriously entertaining.
- Hannah Khalil
NOTE: The following review dates from May 2001 and an earlier tour stop for this production.
The Rat Pack were a right bunch, weren't they? The Frank Sinatra-led showbiz entourage - whose members famously numbered Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and the not so well known Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford - were drinking buddies who gathered together for several films and no end of fun and games during the 1950s and 60s.
But have you seen the film Oceans Eleven? A self-indulgent piece of nonsense that shows the pack up for all that they were - self-obsessed entertainers who revelled in "in-jokes".
Even still, boy, could they knock out a decent tune. "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime", "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Memories Are Made of This", "Strangers in the Night", "That's Amore", "That Old Black Magic", "The Lady Is a Tramp", "Volare" - these, and 34 other big boss tunes, are all to be heard in The Rat Pack, which takes the audience into a Las Vegas cabaret-style setting.
This is a show that revels in nostalgia with a capital N, songs with a capital S, entertainment with a capital E. It's not, as I mistakenly assumed, a warts and all expose of Hollywood icons but rather a few hours of make-believe. The audience can get caught up in the whole pretence of the evening and hell, that's why The Rat Pack is a winner. We're in Vegas, baby, and Sinatra, Ol' Blue Eyes himself, is El Dago once again.
Three performers, along with the Rat Pack Big Band, make the evening swing in spectacular style. Louis Hoover captures perfectly the intonation and phrasing of Sinatra. Yes, he's a sound-a-like, but he also exudes confidence and has a positively glowing stage presence. In fact ,Hoover is so spot-on he probably has the same "connections" that Sinatra had.
George Long is one-eyed Sammy and, again, has the crooner's style down pat. Long also has energy in abundance and, following on from Hoover, moves the show up a couple of gears. Paving the way, in fact, for the appearance of Alex Bourne as Deano, who plays to the audience like...Dean Martin!
Mitch Sebastian's production is vacuous, it skirts around the details, it don't mean a thing. But it's certainly got that swing. A terrific evening of escapist - and dazzling - entertainment.
(reviewed at Sheffield's City Hall)