With apologies to Don McLean, the real “day the music died” was May 14, 1998, when the 82-year career of Francis Albert Sinatra finally ran its course.
Sinatra once said, “You only live once, but the way I do it, once is enough.” That life is being celebrated with class, verve and gusto in “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” at the Laguna Playhouse.
Of the thousands of songs Sinatra recorded from the 1940s through the 1990s, show co-creator (with Todd Olson) and director-choreographer David Grapes has selected about 60 for presentation by a terrific two-man, two-woman cast. Most of the tunes are well known; a few will be unfamiliar.
The quartet — Casey Erin Clark, John Fredo, Karen Jefferys and Jason Watson — all bring terrific voices and abundant performing talent to the party. Old Blue Eyes would have been stoked.
The show is divided into themes — Broadway, cities, young love, summer, etc. — with plenty of examples of each. One of the finest segments, which opens the second act, is a “Losers Medley” that includes such classics as “One for My Baby,” “It Was a Very Good Year” and “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.”
The upbeat numbers — “You Go to My Head,” “Something Stupid,” “Nice ’n’ Easy” and “Young at Heart”— are included in a section dubbed Big Flirt Medley. Sinatra’s “Songs for Survivors” include “This is All I Ask,” “The Best is Yet to Come” and “That’s Life.”
Chicago, New York, Paris and Los Angeles are saluted in the Cities Medley, while the Broadway Medley includes “My Funny Valentine,” “Where or When,” “Makin’ Whoopee,” “It’s All Right With Me” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”
Fredo, in addition to his vocal acumen, also is an accomplished hoofer, as he proves (with Clark, a consummate comic) in one smoothly executed number. Jefferys is a little gal with a big voice, while Watson handles the “young love”-style increments with a juvenile pizzazz. It’s difficult to choose a particular high point, but “It Was a Very Good Year” comes mighty close, with each of the four singers contributing one chorus. Also in the running: “The Lady is a Tramp” and “New York, New York.”
All of this musical nirvana is served up with the assistance of a terrific three-piece combo — leader Vince de Mura on piano, James Leary on bass and Drew Henwall on drums. Sinatra called himself a “saloon singer,” and the band is positioned between a bar and an intimate booth in some upscale night club, perfect both for the romantic and downhearted ballads, in Bruce Goodrich’s shimmering set design.
Frank Sinatra did indeed do it his way, and the Playhouse’s “My Way” is a splendid celebration of the singing segment of one of the entertainment world’s stellar careers.
If You Go
What: “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra”
Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 7:30 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 23 with a special 2 p.m. matinee Thursday and Aug. 20
Cost: $40 to $70
Call: (949) 494-2787
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.