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BWW Reviews: MY WAY Brings Back Sinatra in a Tuneful Revue at Riverside Center


Old Blue Eyes might not be back but if you are a fan of his catalog of songs, MY WAY: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA may give you high hopes and fly you to the moon with nearly 60 signature tunes. An attractive cast covers all phases of Sinatra's musical legacy with style backed up by a killer trio. Ring-a Ding Ding!

The legendary singer - and actor, and producer, and ladies man - Francis Albert Sinatra needs no introduction. From his days as a skinny boy singer from Hoboken, NJ, through his early movie fame, sophisticated phase, and through to his time as an elder statesman of the entertainment business, Frank Sinatra defined an era. He earned his unofficial title as "the Chairman of the Board" through many hit songs, countless awards and his "Rat Pack," the entourage with whom he performed in Las Vegas and around the world.

Riverside Center is now presenting MY WAY, conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, with a book by Olson and under the musical eye of arranger Vince di Mura. Fans of Sinatra can rest nice and easy with this show, surely one of your favorite songs is among the tune-stack - probably several. For Riverside's production Steve Przybylski leads a fantastic trio of musicians that can swing, sway, and provide sophisticated arrangements of the tunes. Przybylski, on keyboards, David Long on drums, and Joanna Smith on bass bring out every nuance of the music.

Director and choreographer Dennis Courtney uses the band and his small but talented cast to great advantage, keeping the evening moving along at a breezy pace. Scenic designer Benjamin Burke, working with lighting designer Kathryn Moncure, provide an elegant, atmosphere that is timeless while evoking the look of an uptown supper club. Frank, Dino, Sammy, and gal-pals Shirley Maclaine and Angie Dickinson would be right at home there.

But it is the music that is the heart and soul of MY WAY and Sinatra's songbook is in great hands. A quartet of young, attractive singers takes the stage and from the opening song, "Strangers in the Night," the cast keeps the tunes coming with style and excellent voices.

As a group Tim Russell, Stephanie Cowan, Alex Canty and Blaire Baker show off some brilliant harmonies in songs such as "New York, New York," "I Only Have Eyes for You," and Johnny Mercer's "Dream." In various combinations, the charm song "Should I?," "I Believe," and "It Was A Very Good Year" were exceptionally well sung.

Individually, each singer gets ample chances to shine - so many in fact, I will just list my own personal favorites, since you are sure to have your own. Tim Russell cast a spell with "Witchcraft," while Alex Canty made the most out of "(Love Is) The Tender Trap."

As for the ladies, in my book they may have edged out the men by a hair. Dressed in fine couture designed by Gaye Law, Stephanie Cowan and Blair Baker looked like they might be waiting to go out on the town with Frank himself. Each lady had a way of caressing a song that brought out the meaning of the lyrics superbly. Among the gems Cowan performed, "Where or When," "You Go to My Head," and "The Best is Yet to Come" were standouts. Baker made such songs as "I Get a Kick Out of You" (sexiest rendition I can recall seeing), "My Funny Valentine," and "That Old Black Magic" her own.

Along with the many songs Sinatra made famous, the show was interspersed with anecdotes and quotes attributed to Frank or said about him. The stories worked - if nothing else to give the singers a breather or two - but would not win any awards for writing. Go for the music and you will not be disappointed.

Special Note about The Meal: Of course, Riverside is a dinner theatre and I only usually mention the food if it is exceptionally good or the reverse. This time I must mention the food for another reason, although my seafood casserole was the best main dish I have eaten there yet. I must thank producing artistic director Patrick A'Hearn, his house manager, the server and kitchen staff for accommodating me on the evening I attended. Due to traffic, I ran very late. I did not expect to get to eat and was fine with that. Patrick was gracious enough to have the staff prepare my dinner and took care of me royally. I tip my hat to one and all for such great service.

MY WAY: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA continues through June 28, 2015 at Riverside Center, 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA 22406. For information or tickets, go to Riverside Center HERE or call (540) 370-4300.

PHOTO CREDIT: Riverside Center

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From This Author Jeffrey Walker