On Theater: Music will steal your heart at Playhouse

Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco nearly 50 years ago, and he's still one of the hottest singers around, even though he'll turn 85 in August.

The Laguna Playhouse will celebrate the life and career of the man Frank Sinatra famously called "the best singer in the business" beginning July 5 when the musical tribute "I Left My Heart" opens a seven-week engagement as the theater's midsummer attraction.

"I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett" will kick off the playhouse's 2011-12 season July 5 through Aug. 21.

"He excites me when I watch him," Sinatra once said. "He moves me. He's the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more."

Sinatra is long gone, but Tony Bennett has been reborn as a favorite of younger audiences. His rendition of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" has become his signature song and earned him Grammy awards as record of the year and best male solo vocal performance.

His Grammy total so far stands at 15. In addition, Bennett has earned two Emmy awards and has sold more than 50 million records worldwide. His new album, "Tony Bennett, Duets II," will be released Sept. 20.

In the Laguna production, Bennett's hit songs will be offered by three singers and a jazz combo performing more than two dozen of Bennett's songs.

In addition to "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," audiences will be treated to a nostalgic program including "Because of You," "Stranger in Paradise," "The Best is Yet to Come," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "The Good Life" and "Rags to Riches."

Anthony Dominick Benedetto was the son of a grocer and Italian-born immigrant who became an international treasure honored by the United Nations with its Citizen of the World award.

He recorded "I Left My Heart" as a B-side single, which upstaged the A-side number "Once Upon a Time" back in 1962. It has since become one of the Golden Gate city's two official songs — the other being "San Francisco" from the 1936 movie of the same name.

As always in the case of the playhouse's summer shows, the theater's parking lot will be off limits to theater patrons due to the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters demands. There is a tram that runs from the Act V parking lot on Laguna Canyon Road to the playhouse at regular intervals.

If You Go

What: "I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett"

Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays from July 5 to Aug. 21; 2 p.m. Sunday matinees

Cost: $35 to $70

Call: (949) 497-2787, ext. 229

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