BWW Reviews: Don Rickles & Robert Davi Bring A Taste Of Classic Vegas To Town
Don Rickles first played Las Vegas in 1959 and has not missed a year in the city since. That is, according to those who know, a record. He has been closely associated with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Rickles was back last weekend at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, still one of the funniest people ever, giving the audience a taste of classic Las Vegas entertainment of the kind that made the city "the Entertainment Capital of the World."
At 87, Rickles walks a bit more slowly than before, but his delivery and audience interaction is as sharp as ever. He does not pick on those he deems unable to take the tease and the sense that, despite what he may say, he is a kind man is always there.
If you missed him this time, see him as soon as you can.
Now, like most comedians, Don Rickles had an opening act. Only, this opening act is not some trying-to-make-it entertainer hanging onto the coattails of a star. No, this opening act is himself an acclaimed actor and singer who moved the audience to several standing ovations.
His name is Robert Davi (in the photo above with Rickles backstage). You probably know him from the 100+ acting roles he's done on film and TV. Growing up in a home where the daily soundtrack was Sinatra, being blessed with a marvelous voice and having been given his first film role by Frank Sinatra, it's only natural that Davi would use that voice to sing the music he loves, the Great American Songbook that Sinatra performed.
It's important to note that Davi is absolutely not a Frank Sinatra impersonator. He is an outstanding musician in his own right who honors Sinatra, someone he deeply admires, by interpreting Sinatra's music and making it his own. And, it's well worth noting that his enunciation is spot--on perfect. He honors the music and makes sure that no one misses a word.
George Noory, host of the nationally syndicated, highly rated, "Coast To Coast AM" radio program was in the audience at Saturday night's show. He says, "There were a lot of people who love Frank Sinatra and Robert Davi did a superb job. He hit those songs right on. He was electrifying. Since you mostly know him from the films he does, you are surprised when you see him onstage singing. It's obvious from watching him he loves doing it and he puts on a great show.
"The audience demographics skewed all over the place," Noory added." There were younger people, older people, all ages. And they loved it."
Steve Cantor, long-time musical director and contractor who puts bands together for Las Vegas shows, has worked for Rickles for about 15 years. He says, "Robert came to Vegas in 2012 and played the Venetian and I contracted his band there. With Don Rickles we've gone through a lot of opening acts through the years and Robert is the only one who's ever gotten a standing ovation."
I found Davi's version of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein standard "Ol' Man River" ineffably moving. His voice, with all its depth, is perfect for that song. Wish he'd sung it twice.
Among the songs in Davi's set were Sinatra standards, including the very moving "Angel Eyes." When he sang the last line, "Excuse me while I disappear," and walked offstage, a woman in the audience said aloud, "NO! He's not leaving, is he?"
Of course, he wasn't leaving. He came back and sang more. Then Rickles came on. When it was all over, after about 90 minutes, they left behind a very happy audience. It looked as if everyone walking out of the auditorium was wearing a big smile and/or a very satisfied look.
Here's hoping that the two will work together soon and often. And, if they do and you can see them, treat yourself to their show. It is wonderful.
(And, if you haven't done so and want a Rickles fix, check out his autobiography, RICKLES' BOOK.)
Photo Courtesy of Randy Waldmaan