'Rat Pack' gets the music right, but is off on tone
Lately, everywhere I go, I see dead people.
Last week, Marley was haunting Scrooge at the Byham Theater in “A Musical Christmas Carol.”
The Plaids returned from heaven in “Plaid Tidings” at the CLO Cabaret.
On New Year's Eve, the specter of Sam in “Ghost The Musical” takes over the Benedum Center.
This week's visitation is a trifecta of phantoms — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. — appearing through Dec. 29 at Heinz Hall with “Christmas with the Rat Pack — Live at the Sands.”
It's the holiday edition of an earlier show, “The Rat Pack – Live at the Sands,” that attempts to replicate not just these three show-biz icons, but the era of the early 1960s when the trio appeared together onstage in the Copa Room of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
Mingling more than two dozen Christmas songs with standards from the men's careers, the show raises holiday spirits, but only shadows of the original performers.
Tam Ward, Nigel Casey and Jason Pennycooke, who play Sinatra, Martin and Davis, are clearly talented, committed performers.
All three hail from the United Kingdom. But you'd never know it from their tuneful voices.
Ward nails Sinatra's Hoboken, N.J., accent. Casey reproduces Martin's laid-back delivery, and Pennycooke generates Davis's high-energy delivery.
They are marvels at recapturing and delivering the phrasing, tone and breezy pacing of their characters' delivery.
Ward's “I've Got You Under My Skin” is near perfection.
Casey's “That's Amore” is almost classic Martin.
Ditto for Pennycooke's delivery of Davis' “Mr. Bojangles.”
Their combined performance of “Sam's Song Style” recalls the hijinks and silliness of Rat Pack performances.
Close your eyes, and it's almost like you're back in the '60s listing to vinyl LPs on your stereo.
It's visually where the show falls short.
Sinatra, Martin and Davis were consummate performers who loved entertaining and connected with their audiences. Though Pennycooke is best at transmitting that charisma, Ward and Casey are more remote and distant.
The show comes with a first-rate orchestra of 12 musicians. Set designer Sean Cavanagh and lighting director Mark Wheatley have created an elegant and colorful environment that's undeniably more lavish than the Copa Room original.
Adding to the glamour are three leggy chorus ladies in a progression of show-girl costumes that lend an aura of period glitz to the proceedings.
The show is least likeable when it ventures into humor.
Jokes about race, religion, Martin's drunkenness and male-female interactions that had audiences laughing in the '60s now produce discomfort, not nostalgia.
Those who remember the vibrant presence of the real Sinatra, Martin and Davis may find this show conjures their ghosts, but not their spirits.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Ravens DL fined for hit on Roethlisberger
- Letang looks forward to asserting veteran leadership
- Penguins notebook: Crosby practices, feels better
- Inside the glass: Johnston’s opening practice grueling
- Judge lifts order blocking racy state emails
- Floods paralyze Manila
- ‘Voice’ returns Sept. 22 with Stefani, Pharrell
- Crews battling Oakmont church blaze
- In U.S., 1 in 4 say secession favorable
- Botched FBI raid in Bellevue stings feds for $100K
- Police, bloodhound team locate former athletic director, Greensburg official