Review by MARILYN LESTER ♠♣♥♦ Launching into Ol’ Blue Eyes’ second century (2016 was the year of Frank Sinatra’s centenary), producer and host Scott Siegel presented, with his usual flair and gift for informative narrative, a roster of Sinatra’s most iconic songs. Singing them on Tuesday night, January 24, at Feinstein’s/54 Below, a company of crooners saluted the Chairman of the Board with an artful array of song and a happy snippet of dance. The latter was the purview of the charismatic and wildly talented Danny Gardner, triple-threat tapper who easily aced “I’ve Got the World on a String” (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler) and “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn). Of course, Chicago isn’t the only city to be feted by Sinatra. He famously made The Big Apple shine with his mega hit of “(Theme from) New York, New York” (John Kander/Fred Ebb), sung by Scott Coulter with his customary verve and commitment to the material. Coulter, who has a natural gift and grace for entertaining, also had the honor of closing the show with another of Sinatra’s most famous numbers, “My Way” (Paul Anka/ Jacques Revaux/ Claude François), revealing pleasant, dulcet tones when dropping into lower registers.
Torch singing, generally associated with female artists, seemed a popular approach for this evening’s tribute by the all-male lineup. After a jazzy, Las Vegas approach to “Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week” (Jule Styne/Cahn), Sal Viviano, a singer who could easily have been a Rat Packer himself, applied a slow burn to “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” (Arlen/Johnny Mercer) as well as to “I Fall in Love Too Easily” (Styne/Cahn). An almost-newcomer to the Siegel stage, Rafael Rodriquez, returning to a performing career and making his Feinstein’s/54 Below debut, torched “Softly, as I Leave You” (Hal Shaper/Antonio DeVito/Giorgio Calabrese) with a heavy vibrato. Although his delivery was overly mannered, the basic voice quality is sound, giving hope that more performance experience will be Rodriquez’s ally in future. Douglas Ladnier, with superb phrasing, crooned a simmering “Here’s That Rainy Day” (Van Heusen/Johnny Burke) and applied his resonant baritone to making “My Funny Valentine” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart) into a torchy story-song.
Of course, the swinging Sinatra was not to be neglected, and was liberally interspersed throughout the program, particularly with the kickoff number “Come Fly with Me,” sung jazzily in his distinctive tenor by Jack Noseworthy. He also offered “All the Way” (Van Heusen/ Cahn), peculiarly sounding as if trying to channel Liza Minnelli. Two Cole Porter numbers that were a staple of the Sinatra catalog, “Night and Day” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” were delivered by Aaron Ramey – the first upbeat and the second more in the style of a ballad — while the Sinatra-esque Sal Viviano metaphorically finger-snapped a hip “Just in Time” (Styne/Betty Comden/ Adolph Green). Backing up and enhancing the vocal artistry of each performer was music director/pianist Mark Hartman (with the exception of Rodriguez being accompanied by Billy McDaniel).
Editor’s Note: Scott Siegel’s Sinatra Tributes are part of an ongoing series at Feinstein’s/54 Below, located at 254 West 54 Street in Manhattan. His next variety shows there are Thursday, January 26: Broadway’s Greatest Hits, with a cast featuring Broadway performers. See https://54below.com/events/54-sings-broadways-greatest-hits/
February 4’s Broadway Originals presentation follows; see https://54below.com/events/broadway-originals-2 FULL VENUE/MENU INFO FOR ALL DATES AND EVENTS: www.54below.com
PHOTO CREDIT – Maryann Lopinto