Review: Christmas With The Rat Pack
From left: David Hayes (Sammy Davis Jr), Garrett Phillips (Frank Sinatra), Nigel Casey (Dean Martin), photo by Betty Zapata
Garrett Phillips (Frank Sinatra)
Nigel Casey (Dean Martin)
David Hayes (Sammy Davis Jr)
with, as The Burrelli Sisters:
Drift back in time to the glamorous, glitzy nights of Vegas in the company of three of the world's most popular entertainers and experience Frank, Sammy and Dean performing at the famous Sands hotel with the fabulous Burrelli Sisters and The Rat Pack Big Band.
Hit follows hit including pack favourites The Lady is a Tramp, Mr Bojangles, That's Amore, I've Got You Under My Skin, What Kind of fool Am I, Volare, My Way, Candyman, Everybody Loves Somebody and many more.
The Sands Hotel was a notable landmark on the Las Vegas strip in that famous Nevada town best known, perhaps, for its allure to those anxious to part with their cash through gambling.
The hotel plied its trade for more than four decades, from 1952 until it was blown-up and demolished in 1996.
Once owned by the hermit-like businessman, Howard Hughes, perhaps the venue's biggest claim to fame was the fact that it offered guests the additional benefit of entertainment provided by mega stars of the era, and none more so than a trio of singers - Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, and Dean Martin - who collectively were the leading lights in an informal grouping of stars known as 'The Rat Pack'.
Garrett Phillips (Frank Sinatra) Nigel Casey (Dean Martin), photo by Betty Zapata
This show takes us back to the heady days of the early 1960s at the height of the popularity of both The Sands Hotel and also its three most famous performers, to not only provide a glimpse into entertainment history but a fun show that boasts a packed schedule of hugely memorable songs, many of which are still doing the rounds having become 'standards'.
Though this particular version is suitably laced with plenty of Christmas songs as you'd expect from both the title and and the time of year, it's a neat blend of enormously popular songs like 'New York, New York' and (now) traditional festive favourites like 'Jingle Bells' and 'Have yourself a merry little Christmas' and the like.
Joining the big-name male singers is a fictional female backing group, here called the Burelli Sisters and attired in stunningly gorgeous red dresses.
Apparently, the 'boys' never actually performed with a backing group, or female performers for that matter.
David Hayes ( as Sammy Davis Jr), photo by Betty Zapata
Even if that aspect of the show isn't entirely authentic, there's still plenty in this slick melange that is - especially in the performances from the 'stars'.
Of course what we're really watching are three 'impersonators'.
That description, though, doesn't really do justice to the vocal capabilities on offer - make no mistake, these men are all immensely talented signers in their own right, even if their primary purpose is to recreate the distinctive style of each of the 'real' singers.
Garrett Phillips gets pretty much top billing here as Frank Sinatra, and does look incredibly like the mega successful, world-renowned vocalist whose recordings are almost adored as much today as they ever were.
And Nigel Casey provides that slightly slurred, almost lazily-sung sound that is the uniquely recognisable, laid-back technique of Dean Martin, as well known for his drinking habits as his vocalisations.
David Hayes's physical features also have an uncanny resemblance to the real Sammy Davis, but he doesn't give us the full range of Davis's incredible talents - he was not only a fine singer, but also an all-round entertainer being a gifted dancer and noted for his own impressions of famous musicians and actors.
So, it would have given an extra dimension to the format if some of those aspects of Mr Davis's skills could have been incorporated.
However, David Hayes certainly capture's Sammy Davis's rich, flowing and emotionally heartfelt style.
Not quite all the famous songs we associate with some of the stars are included in this version of 'The Rat Pack', but, with over 30 to savour, there's no shortage of sumptuous tunes.
Known for their antics in their real-life performances, the show duly incorporates some banter between the singers.
On the whole, the jokes in the scripted dialogue feel a little lame on occasion, perhaps deliberately so at times, but there are a few gags that work well, augmented on the occasion I saw the show by an interjection from an audience member which drew some nice ad-libbing from the stage.
Christmas with the Rat Pack builds on the highly successful previous runs of The Rat Pack format, so it's not a completely new concept, but I suspect for devotees of the era this will be seen as a welcome return to the West End.
Lush, rich and evocative vocals, backed by a band in prodigious form, this is certainly a Christmas treat as well as a deserving celebration of some of entertainment's greatest singers.
Note: from 9 January to 3 February, the show switches from its festive theme to include the work of the legendary Ella Fitzgerald.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Theatre Royal Haymarket
Our show listing for Christmas With The Rat Pack
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