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Start Spreading the News, 'The Rat Pack' is Hot

Time to order a whiskey, straight up, because the ice might melt, it's that hot.  Okay, clichéd lines aside, there is something heartening going down at the Wilshire Theatre, as showbusiness's three greatest crooners are on display in all their glory.  While Las Vegas is only a short drive from Los Angeles, only the older crowds are probably familiar with the classic styling of the nightclub entertainment acts of yesteryear.  After all, the last time the Rat Pack played the famed Vegas Strip, racist humor was delivered with a loving tongue-in-cheek manner and all the top entertainers donned tuxes.

As luck would have it – oh luck, that mysterious dame – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. have come to town, just in time for the holiday season, in the stand-up tribute The Rat Pack – Live at the Sands, at the Wilshire in Beverly Hills.  The glossy production is a purely song driven concert recreation of the group's heyday in the early 1960's at the Las Vegas Sands Hotel, which like the era it represented, was demolished some years ago.

Aside from the classic Rat Pack banter, there's no book, rather the timeless music takes center stage, fittingly, and proves tunes like "Luck Be Lady," "That's Amore" and "Mr. Bojangles" will never die.  It seems like every artist, old and new, is waxing nostalgic these days with standards albums, from Michael Buble to Rod Stewart.  Yet, seeing the Rat Pack in action, real or not, reminds how those days are forever gone, but not forgotten.

L.A. crowds can get drunk on the top-notch characterizations of those three legends, and especially so from David Hayes as Sammy Davis Jr., who deserves the most focus in the show.  Hayes not only one-ups his two co-headliners, but he channels Davis so remarkably, any impersonation factor is quickly forgotten.  Stephen Triffitt, as Sinatra, has the moves down cold, including the equally frigid demeanor, giving a welcome remembrance of Old Blue Eyes.  And while it is impossible to fully capture the essence of arguably the world's greatest entertainer, Triffitt's uncanny looks and bold vocals come darn close.  The only bitter taste in this musical cocktail is Nigel Casey, who lacks Martin's deep register, though he makes up for the shortcoming with spot-on charm.  Two out of three isn't bad.

A vibrant addition to the show is the Burelli Sisters (Anna Carmichael, Lucie Florentine and Lucy Thatcher), strutting on stage in Chris Wood's devilish red costumes while backing up the three boisterous fellows in charge of the evening.

The three stars are at their best when sharing the stage, as is mostly the case during the second act, playing with all the great chemistry and snarky jabs Frank, Dean and Sammy used to run through.

Mitch Sebastian has directed and choreographed The Rat Pack with slick precision, ripping from one hit to another, throwing the audience directly into the era of big band wonderment.  And what would a night with such music be without a powerhouse band, as is on display in the production?  That brass section really wails.  All of the necessary parts are provided to kick off a warm and nostalgic trip.

The Rat Pack – Live at the Sands runs through December 16, 2007 at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills in its Los Angeles premiere.  Tickets range from $25 to $65 and can be purchased online at or by calling 213-365-3500.

Photos by Judy Totton - (1) Stephen Triffit (2) David Hayes

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