BWW Reviews: Encore Offers A Sinatra Christmas Songfest Through the Holidays

A Sinatra Christmas/conceived and performed by Henry Prego & Friends/Encore Dinner Theatre, Tustin/through December 29

Singer Henry Prego wanted to produce a staged Christmas show that is reminiscent of the nostalgic 60s TV specials at the Hollywood Palace with himself as host singing Frank Sinatra holiday favorites and introducing some talented guest star acts. Well, that he has achieved with A Sinatra Christmas currently onstage at Encore Dinner Theatre in Tustin through December 29 only. It's an overall fun entertainment replete with dancers and kids - what's Christmas without kids! It may be missing a beat or two here and there, but fun just the same.

The guest stars are the extremely versatile classically-trained singer Elijah Rock and upbeat and quirky Orange County housewife comedienne Frances Dilorinzo. There are six dancers who move in and out throughout the show to surround the stars with mirth and even a group of kids who surround Prego to sing the Oscar-winning Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn "High Hopes" from the film A Hole in the Head. I really like Prego's style. He's relaxed, without trying to imitate Sinatra, giving off his own lovely aura to everyone around him. He and Rock did a terrific duet on "Me and My Shadow" which was a classic for Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. He also made working with kids look easy as he had them sitting, well-behaved and hanging on his every word as well as singing. It kind of reminded me of a Perry Como Special in which Como also expressed a gentle way with just about everyone he worked with. It did take Prego a few numbers, however, to hit his vocal stride Saturday night, and he was at his very best while performing with the others. Overall, I did wish for maybe an appearance by Santa Claus and perhaps a magician with a couple of magic tricks to add more variety, but that's more expense, and the trio did just fine...oh, did I mention that Frances Dilorinzo cannot sing?

Not an issue! This lady is one hilarious standup and does just fine speaking her words: "I can be a stripper or standup this evening. Your choice!". She's a mom, but better leave the kids at home. She can get a bit risque, definitely an adults only performer. What makes her appealing is a natural quality, unlike Phyllis Diller or Roseanne, who relied on loud delivery or fast-talking gimmicks. Dilorinzo describes herself as normal - she didn't do drugs and loved her parents growing up. She has fun with the line "I'm a lesbian". "No, I'm not a lesbian. If I were, I'd have my own talk show by now!" So, there's a regular gal pal quality to her mixed with a slightly cockeyed and salty approach to the material...that really grabs you. "A mall: a place where you can pick up your cleaning, get a tattoo and even catch a club act all in one visit"! Her first set in Act I included some thoughts about a boob job. "Not much? (pointing to her chest) C'mon, give me a break. We're experiencing an economic recession!" She got a lot of mileage out of a bowling convention held annually in Reno, where one bowler won everyone over with only one set of balls. Her second set in Act II got visually delicious as she modeled her Happy Hour Mom t-shirt and got down and dirty displaying her latest fad with breast implants. A real hoot!

No pun intended but Elijah does indeed Rock. This gig is pure fun for the trained baritone, who can sing opera as well as pop. He did a magnetic job with "Candy Man", "Jingle Bells", Donnie Hathaway's "This Christmas", "L.O.V.E." and in duet with Prego on "Shadow" as well as "Let It Snow!" Musical director of the great live Henry Prego Orchestra Peggy Duquesnel offered a refreshing jazzy interp of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" from her new Christmas album entitled All I Ask for Christmas. Michael Lopez did a super job directing the evening and choreographing the six pretty dancers who brought holiday cheer and color to the gentlemen's musical numbers.

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Don Grigware Don Grigware is an Ovation nominated actor and writer whose contributions to theatre through the years have included 6 years as theatre editor of NoHoLA, a contributor to LA Stage Magazine and currently on his own website:

Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. He is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.

Don is in his fifth year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page.

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