Frank Sinatra made some 1,500 studio recordings, a staggering body of work, and while the attractive young performers in “Our Sinatra” playfully announce a presentation of the entire canon, they realistically settle instead into a more comfortable 80 minutes, tripping down memory lane with a parcel of familiar standards.
The revue, currently nestled at Birdland, was conceived by Eric Comstock, Hilary Kole and Christopher Gines, who appeared in its 1999 preem at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. The show moved on to other Gotham venues, running for 1,096 performances, and subsequently toured extensively. Comstock’s piano bench was filled by Ronny Whyte (who fronted the big-band tour version) and Billy Stritch, in addition to launching the career of a then 17-year-old Peter Cincotti.
Co-creator Kole is back as the pretty one in the middle. She is much more comfortable and assured than she was four years ago. Perched on the piano, singing “I’ve Got the World on a String,” Kole’s breezy confidence and sweet cushy voice would have pleased Sinatra no end.
Tony DeSare at the piano boasts a dapper charm, offering a knockout turn with “Birth of the Blues” and a breezy hit from the Tommy Dorsey days, “Oh! Look at Me Now.” Adam James (who resembles a boyish Johnny Carson) completes the triumvirate. He is a cushy light baritone who brings cool finger-snapping savvy to “Where or When.”
Perhaps no singer ever expressed the elation and despair of romance as keenly as Ol’ Blue Eyes. It is generally accepted that Sinatra’s recording of “I’m a Fool to Want You” reflected the pain of his divorce from Ava Gardner. Kole’s rendition reveals the hurt and desperation. It’s torch singing at its apex.
There are also those saloon songs that often found Sinatra, cigarette and Scotch in hand, leaning on a bar. The segment is kicked off by DeSare’s “One for My Baby” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” Kole goes for the jugular once more with “It Never Entered My Mind.” Order “orange juice for one,” a bowl of warm water and a razor blade.
For a finale, there is the “mother of all medleys,” a batch of more than 20 tunes that desperately attempts to fill in all those milestone Sinatra classics. The medley provides some amusingly hip playfulness by the singers, with DeSare and James vying for the affectionate teasing allure of Kole. Postscript on the evening is an a capella turn on “Put Your Dreams Away,” the old radio theme. An apt farewell.
There are minimal biographical observations along the way, and they are tastefully inserted. The show concentrates on Sinatra’s musical legacy. In contrast to the recent overblown Sinatra tribute at Radio City Music Hall, with dancing Rockettes, puppets, puffy clouds and ocean waves crashing on the shore, “Our Sinatra” offers a comforting, more tasteful and classy bow to a legend.