×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sinatra — His Voice, His World, His Way

When Frank Sinatra walked out onto the stage at the Radio City Music Hall in 1990, he needed nothing more than the accompaniment of a great orchestra and conductor; a reliable sound system; and lighting design that framed him tastefully. Now, he's back on a huge screen, accompanied by fireworks, chorus girls, a choir and special effects.

With:
With: John Pizzarelli, Radio City Rockettes.

When Frank Sinatra walked out onto the great stage at the Radio City Music Hall in 1990, he needed nothing more than the accompaniment of a great orchestra and conductor; a crisp, reliable sound system; and lighting design that framed him tastefully. Now, five years after his death in l998 at 83, he’s back on a huge screen, in his prime, accompanied by fireworks, dancing chorus girls, a gospel choir and high-tech special effects that find Ol’ Blue Eyes emerging from puffy white clouds above a roaring ocean surf.

Early performances of this odd enterprise were canceled due to technical difficulties, but the snags appeared to have been smoothed over by the official opening night. Biggest apparent problem is the synchronization of Sinatra’s onscreen appearances with a live 40-piece orchestra. Sinatra fans from the old days came out in numbers, and from the aud response and lobby chatter, they appear to have been pleased with this lavishly conceived trip down memory lane.

Most of the clips are culled from ABC television shows of the ’50s. The songs are the cream of the repertoire, from the WWII homage “I’ll Be Seeing You” to Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On.” “All the Way,” “Come Fly With Me” and Harold Arlen’s “I’ve Got the World on a String” epitomize Sinatra’s unerring romanticism and the cool finger-snapping savvy of his artistry.

The always-dazzling Rockettes, a Radio City Music Hall tradition, provide some very leggy and attractive terpsichory. The dancers bob about under white umbrellas when Sinatra sings “Pennies From Heaven,” and there is some kaleidoscopic screen imagery that Busby Berkeley would have envied. The synchronized high-kick lineup is a favorite Gotham tourist attraction, and certainly Sinatra would have appreciated being surrounded by such beauties.

In one of the more dubious bits of invention in legit helmer Des McAnuff’s production, charter members of the legendary Rat Pack are present in the form of giant puppets, voiced with poor imitations. Dean Martin, glass in hand, quips drunk jokes as Sammy Davis Jr. doubles over in hysterical laughter. A poised Sinatra serves as straight man to monitor the behavior of his pals. Even Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop wander in for a gimmicky finale.

Vintage scrapbook snaps of Sinatra with big-band headliners Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers flash by much too hurriedly. And the biographical material includes some downers, including the assassination of a president, an unpopular association with a crime syndicate and Sinatra’s tortured relationship with Ava Gardner.

Reflective testimonials, remembrances and observations pop up frequently from an unlikely assortment of writers, politicians and performers. One can understand the contributions of DJ Sid Mark, who championed Sinatra on his weekly broadcasts, and Pete Hamill, a Gotham writer and Sinatra pal who penned 1998 tome “Why Sinatra Matters” — but contributions by Marc Anthony, Sean Combs, Bruce Willis and Elvis Costello are a desperate and unnecessary attempt to give Sinatra some contempo cachet.

There are clips from Sinatra films, both good ones and bad. Sinatra’s fall from a horse in “The Kissing Bandit” might be considered a Technicolor embarrassment, but the scene of the dying Maggio in the arms of Montgomery Clift in “From Here to Eternity” remains a vivid reminder of his raw, untrained acting skill.

Jersey singer-guitarist John Pizzarelli serves as host and narrator, strolling across the vast stage to lend some biographical facts, or to perch on the apron, lending his voice for a few strains of “From This Moment On” or “I’ve Got the World on a String” until the man himself appears on the wide screen to take over. Pizzarelli is a charming and genial guy, who fronts a versatile trio in the tradition of vintage Nat King Cole. His talents are well harnessed here, but his simulated participation with astronauts in a moon landing, an awkward segue for “Fly Me to the Moon,” is just weird.

Finale finds Sinatra back on the screen for “Send in the Clowns” and the Big Apple anthem “New York, New York” as the ceiling and walls are flooded with pics of the singer in the company of presidents, pals, gals and family.

Sinatra -- His Voice, His World, His Way

Radio City Music Hall; 5,986 seats; $95

Production: A Radio City Entertainment presentation of a show conceived and directed by Des McAnuff; written by Colman deKay. Choreography, Casey Nicolaw.

Creative: Set, Robert Brill; lighting, Howell Binkley; costumes, Gregg Barnes; sound, Dan Gerhard; multimedia design, Batwin and Robin Prods.; puppets, Michael Curry, orchestrations, Don Sebesky; music direction, Ron Melrose. Stage manager, Frank Hartenstein. Opened, reviewed Oct. 15, 2003. Running time: 1 HOUR, 35 MIN.

Cast: With: John Pizzarelli, Radio City Rockettes.

More Legit

  • The Play That Goes Wrong review

    BBC Orders Comedy Series Based on ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

    The BBC has greenlit “The Goes Wrong Show,” a new series based on Mischief Theatre’s popular “The Play That Goes Wrong” stage production about a troupe that puts on disastrous plays. The stage show has transferred from London’s West End to Broadway for a J.J. Abrams-produced version described by Variety as “a broad, silly and [...]

  • By the Way Meet Vera Stark

    Off Broadway Review: 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' by Lynn Nottage

    After writing two harrowing Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, “Sweat” and “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage is entitled to have a little fun. But while this revival of her new play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” walks and talks like a screwball comedy, it has a real brain in its head. Before we get too serious, let’s meet [...]

  • Merrily We Roll AlongRoundabout Theatre CompanyMERRILY

    Off Broadway Review: 'Merrily We Roll Along'

    Like the optimistic youths at the end — or is it the beginning? — of “Merrily We Roll Along,” creatives keep going back to this problematic Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, re-imagining the show in the hope that the end results will be different this time around. They’re not. But disappointments are often off-set by new [...]

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content