Back before "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"; before casino's became theme parks with outdoor cafes indoors and roller-coaster rides 900 feet in the air opened (and then closed due to lack of interest); before the Bellagio's dancing fountains; back before production cost determined perceived entertainment quality; and back before macabre skinless bodies or sunken ocean liner artifacts defined a resort's entertainment offerings there was a time when Las Vegas Casino's relied upon true star power to attract its customers.
One of the biggest shows of that time with the greatest star power began as an impromptu gathering of great friends. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford were in Las Vegas to film Ocean's Eleven, and they wanted something to do at night.
The Summit at the Sands “act” and their on-stage interaction subsequently helped cement Las Vegas as the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Individually these guys were talented and cool, collectively they were cooler than cool, they were the Rat Pack; their individual talent and their mutual admiration fueled what would become one of the most highly regarded Las Vegas shows of any time. They sang, danced, and joked with each other on stage and it was watching their interaction and interpersonal relationships as much as their individual talent that drew customers, fellow actors, foreign dignitaries, even the President of the United States to their shows.
These guys loved each other, they loved performing and they loved interacting with the audience. Each night produced a different dynamic and resulted in shows that were unique and different from night to night. The lounge bars they initially played in created a small intimate experience where the audience was treated to a personal experience with the "act".
And now their show, their interaction, their relationship has been brought back to life by the son of one of their contemporaries. Sandy Hackett is the son of Buddy Hackett, the comedian, who knew, performed, and was friends with all the members of the Rat Pack.
“Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” is a theatrical production that seeks to recreate the atmosphere and ambience of those lounge shows while exploring the personal relationships each member had with each other.
I was lucky enough to chat with Sandy Hackett and his wife about the production and its upcoming run at the Cobb Energy Centre March 14-17.
What becomes apparent in talking with Sandy is his obvious affection and respect for the Rat Pack, particularly Joey Bishop, a man Hackett knew personally as “Uncle Joey” and who became the catalyst for the show back in 1997 when he suggested that Sandy Hackett would be perfect playing him in an HBO show.
That opportunity didn’t work out but the idea stuck and Sandy Hackett was soon researching and writing a production that would not only pay homage to the Rat Pack’s lifestyle but would also provide ample opportunity to experience songs evocative of that era.
The show, like the original, provides opportunity for each of the principals to showcase their talents; for example Frank Sinatra sings “Fly Me To The Moon” and Dean Martin sings “That’s Amore” and Sammy Davis Jnr. Sings “What Kind of Fool am I?” but its in some of the original numbers that the show strikes its most emotional chords – something much more than would be expected of a tribute show.
The show is very much a family affair. In addition to Sandy Hackett writing, producing, directing and starring in the show, his father Buddy, through a recording made before his passing plays God and Sandy’s wife Lisa Dawn Miller plays “Frank’s One Love” deliberately left unnamed to allow for personal interpretation as to who that was. Miller has one number, an original song written by her father Ron Miller, a Motown songwriter, who penned such standards as Stevie Wonder’s Yester-you, Yester-me, Yesterday and Diana Ross’s “Touch me in the morning.”
In addition to the musical numbers, Joey Bishop, considered the “Hub of the Wheel” of the Rat Pack by Frank Sinatra, is provided ample opportunity for his stand-up comedy. Hackett, who grew up in a comedic household, sought his father’s advice when originally writing the show and had several interviews with Joey Bishop himself to ensure the characters and show’s authenticity.
In addition to Hackett and Miller the cast includes some very talented people playing Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr. Hackett has been meticulous in selecting these characters because to be playing someone who’s larger than life you better have a stage presence yourself.
Just as Frank, Sammy, Dean and Joey were then, the cast of “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” is accessible; interacting with the audience during the show provides much of the energy and fuel for the improvisational nature of much the humor. The cast also makes themselves available after the show in the lobby. If you didn’t have the opportunity to meet the Rat Pack, these guys provide a great alternative.
Sandy Hacketts Rat Pack Show runs at the Cobb Energy Centre from March 14-17. Tickets are available from the box office or ticketmaster.