Stripped of magnetism, the boozing, broad-chasing re-creations of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. (Gary Corsello, Steve Apple, Lonnie Parlor) are shallow, and lines that slipped under the Copa Room radar now emerge as wince-inducing and witless. The Kodak is too large for “The Rat Pack,” essentially an intimate Vegas act, and Corsello’s comedic coaching to Parlor, “it’s about subtlety,” serves as forceful reminder that this overlong show steers away from anything subtle. It fails to give its subjects or era a fresh spin for modern theatergoers.
Familiar Sinatra-Martin-Davis photographs line the wall — and a bar, three stools and semi-circular lighted images of piano keys set the stage for Martin (Apple) to establish his tipsiness and sing, “When you’re drinking, you get stinking,” before he launches into signature songs, “Everybody Loves Somebody” and “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.”
Apple’s gags and vocal inflections present the externals of Martin’s style without his velvet smoothness and supreme self-assurance. His high spot is a notably strong interpretation of “Kick in the Head,” which helps us to ignore such lines as a remark to Sammy, “I only have eye for you.”
The one-liners, in general (“You said mother — that’s only half a word”) inspire the burlesque cry, “Get the hook!”
Apple, at least, has an overall persona that evokes Martin in broad outline. Corsello’s Frank Sinatra bears no relationship, physically or musically, to the Chairman of the Board. Though a capable singer, his portrayal is insecure, devoid of the sexual threat and dominant power that made Sinatra a feared and undisputed leader.
Parlor gets much closer to Davis. Director Joe A. Giamalva maintains a firmer grip on the Davis character, and Parlor’s renditions, though uneven, often stir up a theatrical excitement absent from the rest of the production. “What Kind of Fool Am I?” is a highlight, and an out-of-place “Candy Man” rouses the crowd from its general apathy. With the right vehicle, Parlor could drop his Davis identity and carry a show based on his own solid singing and personality.
“Rat Pack” works best when the performers step free of their characterizations and sing out as themselves. For a few minutes, Parlor and Corsello project individual spontaneity on “Me and My Shadow” and their final handshake conveys a believable camaraderie.
After that, the evening rolls downhill again with a jokey, tedious medley featuring such witticisms as “Nothing could be finer than to shack up with a minor in the morning.”