Review: Sinatra: Raw
Richard Shelton - photo by Peter Baratti
You are invited to Palm Springs, California, 1971.
Frank Sinatra faces retirement.
The air is electric and the crowd jockey for position at Sinatra's last intimate show.
But times are changing as the Rolling Stones and David Bowie dominate the charts.
Sinatra's blue eyes are bloodshot and his face craggy with booze, cigarettes and memories.
Things take an unexpected turn when he drinks One for My Baby too many.
This is the 2am Sinatra you dream of meeting.
Dangerous. Unpredictable. Brilliant.
This run at Crazy Coqs marks the London premiere following a sold-out Edinburgh Fringe season.
Francis Albert Sinatra (1915 to 1998) still provides inspiration for new ways to recreate his enormous talents and thereby continue to entertain two decades after his death.
Sinatra's unique singing style combined with a vast songbook of tunes he made famous and a life full of incident and considerable controversy, together with his relationships with other stars, make for a rich cocktail with which to concot a new show about the formidable 'crooner'.
Written and performed by Richard Shelton, Sinatra: Raw is not merely a show with a terrfic, hugely gifted singer impersonating a legendary singing talent.
What Richard Shelton has done in this show is to give us some sense of the life of the real man in a kind of monologue interspersed with songs along the way.
So, the format for this show is multi-layered - we're in a cabaret bar listening to songs, but enlivened by a man looking back on his life, reminiscing if you like, on the eve of his retirement.
Of course, some of Sinatra's life events and connections that Mr Shelton raises are still controversial.
At one point during the show, he denies connections with the Mafia and his alter ego, Sinatra.
That is almost a direct quote from the great man himself - I heard him deny involvement with the Mafia in a tape recording of an interview Sinatra gave about his life which was aired during another show I saw about Sinatra at the Palladium back in 2006.
So, Mr Shelton seems to have done his homework in terms of research.
But indisputable factual evidence - particularly regarding private lives - is not always found in abundance and sometimes gets embellished or changed over time.
So, some of the 'facts' that Richard Shelton's Sinatra tells us may be questionable - though some are certainly verifiable, such as the description of Sinatra's rather traumatic birth.
Overall, what we hear about Sinatra's life is intriguing enough to keep us hooked for the duration, especially his tempestuous relationship with Ava Gardner.
Crazy Coqs is pretty-much the perfect setting for this show.
The venue is essentially a small but impressive cabaret bar with seating at tables that enhances the intimate atmosphere of the show considerably.
Richard Shelton has all the abilities not only to bring to life the vocal style of Ol' Blue Eyes, but is also able to convince us he's still among us given that he does look amazingly like Sinatra in terms of physical appearance.
However, it's in the singing department where Mr Shelton delivers pure gold with wonderful singing that captures every subtle nuance of Sinatra's style - so similar in fact that one one could be listening to a recording - except we're most definitely not.
Michael Roulston provides top-notch piano accompaniment which is sufficient to augment the gorgeously rich vocals without in any way restraining them, but this is obviously not the 'big band' Sinatra concert sound that some might prefer.
However, I loved this simple, uncluttered presentation which is cleverly boosted with skilfully-designed sound amplification during the songs.
A hit at the Edinburgh Fringe and here receiving its London premiere, Sinatra: Raw is an intimate and intriguing portrait of Sinatra's life, embellished by many of the glorious songs he made his own, brilliantly sung by Richard Shelton in prodigious form.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Crazy Coqs
Our show listing for Sinatra: Raw
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