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BWW Review: MY WAY at The Phoenix Theatre Company

Music in the key of Sinatra! A show filled with vitality and class! Runs at The Phoenix Theatre Company through May 23rd.

BWW Review: MY WAY at The Phoenix Theatre Company

Pizzazz!

That's the word that comes to mind as the songs of Sinatra echo in my mind hours after leaving The Phoenix Theatre Company's flashy and upbeat production of MY WAY: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA, directed by D. Scott Withers.

The show is the first in a series of commercially popular homages to legends of American music by the team of Todd Olson and David Grapes. Olson is the Producing Artistic Director of American Stage Theatre Company in St. Petersburg, Florida. Grapes is the retired Director of the School of Theatre Arts and Dance at University of Northern Colorado and the former Producing Artistic Director of the Tennessee Repertory Theatre. In addition to MY WAY, they have co-created three other highly acclaimed musical revues: CHRISTMAS MY WAY ~ A SINATRA HOLIDAY BASH, MOON RIVER ~ JOHNNY MERCER'S AMERICAN SONGBOOK, and I LEFT MY HEART ~ A SALUTE TO THE MUSIC OF TONY BENNETT.

In MY WAY, forty-nine tunes from the Sinatra 1300-plus songbook are arranged into a series of medleys (Favorites, Broadway, Cities, Young Love, Love and Marriage, Losers, Big Flirt, Moon, and Songs for Survivors) that corresponds to stages of the crooner's life and key themes in his musical repertoire.

On an outdoor stage created as a venue to keep audiences safe from COVID, a huge LED screen projects images that mirror the content of the tunes. Music director and pianist Alan J. Plado and his band ~ Mark Stolper on drums and Dan Stotz on bass ~ are spot on in riding the waves of emotion and rhythm that befit each song.

The mood is set for a foursome of top-notch local talents to take the stage and whip up a starlit journey in time and melody.

Enter two couples: Trisha Ditsworth and Matravius Avent. Jessie Jo Pauley and James Gish. The four ~ clad in fashionable nightclub wear, dashingly designed by Sara Lindsey. The four ~ possessing a palpable aura of comfort and enjoyment with each other ~ no surprise, as they are couples in "real life." The chemistry is natural and authentic and most pleasing to the senses.

Each artist brings a unique style to their performance.

Jessie Jo Pauley brings a powerful voice to her role as a risqué and sultry figure of the nightclub scene. She makes for a perfect counter to her partner James Gish's cool-cat countenance. When she joins the ensemble in taking turns on the sections of It Was a Very Good Year, her expressive phrasing and passion explode.

Gish is the ultimate showman, cruising the stage, chatting up the audience, and then belting out his assigned tunes with verve. He lights a fuse to every song that sends classics like Chicago and I'm Gonna Live Til I Die soaring.

Matravius Avent's velvet voice and endearing personality bring warmth to the stage, especially in his renditions of Blue Skies and One for My Baby.

A sizable share of songs belongs to Trisha Ditsworth whose charismatic presence and full-throttled voice elevate the show. From the moment that this songbird breathes the lyrics of My Funny Valentine to her smooth and sublime rendition of That Old Black Magic, she consistently charms the audience with her authenticity, her fluid movement, and her ability to reach the high notes with ease.

As an ensemble, the four artists do a splendid job of harmonizing, bringing energy and, yes, pizzazz, to songs seasoned with romance (I Only Have Eyes for You and All The Way) and reflection (It Was a Very Good Year and My Way).

The group never lets up. Indeed, they punch it up a few notches with a rousing round of New York, New York that merits a tip of the hat and an equally rousing round of applause.

MY WAY is music in the key of Sinatra ~ a show filled with vitality and class that flies one to the moon!

MY WAY: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA runs at The Phoenix Theatre Company's socially-distanced outdoor venue through May 23rd.

Additional credits:

Robert Kolby Harper ~ Choreographer

Robert Kovach ~ Stage Designer

Dave Temby ~ Sound Designer

Kristen Peterson ~ Lighting Designer

Photo credit to Reg Madison Photography ~ Trisha Ditsworth and Matravius Avent

The Phoenix Theatre Company ~ https://www.phoenixtheatre.com ~ 1825 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ ~ Box office: 602-254-2151


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