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)