Sassy, sensual, thoughtful, up tempo, sentimental, classy, and beautifully conceived only begin to describe the new show, All Sinatra at downtown Kansas City’s Quality Hill Playhouse, running now through Feb. 23.
Credit Executive Producer and performer J. Kent Barnhart with scouring though over 150 Frank Sinatra hits and narrowing down his evening’s performance to about 50 time-tested, classics from the Chairman of the Board. Barnhart’s selection of Sinatra tunes, coupled with his casting of two signature performers at Quality Hill Playhouse, John Daugharthy and Melinda MacDonald elevated the show to the highest standards. But that’s not all, Barnhart’s choice of band members, Ken Remmert on percussion and Brian Wilson on bass pushed the show from great to sublime. And then, there is Barnhart’s mastery of the keyboard and arrangements that showcase every song and performer to the max.
Like all Quality Hill shows, Barnhart searches for interesting music that is not always well known, and he succeeded in All Sinatra as well. Just when the audience settles in to the standards attributed to Sinatra’s songbook, Barnhart surprises listeners with a song he’s unearthed and encourages the audience to refocus their attention. And, as always Act I always sets the tone and mood for Act II which drives the show to an exquisite finale.
So many times musicians add to a performance but are seldom singled out for their outstanding addition to a performance. Go to All Sinatra expecting to thoroughly impressed and entertained by both Remmert and Wilson. Both deliver outstanding performances and deserve to be watched throughout the performance. Remmert’s expressions continually change to indicate he’s overly immersed in the piece he’s playing and the mood of the song. As for Wilson, his fingering, as he plucks his bass, is superb. Both performers compliment Barnhart’s keyboard skills and accentuate the vocal performers, Daugharthy and MacDonald.
The show, All Sinatra lends itself to a more male dominated performance, and as such, the combination of Barnhart and Daugharthy perform the lion’s share of the songs. They perform solo, duet, and trio numbers with grace. But, to compliment their performances, MacDonald equally adds her vocal magic in her own solo, duet, and trio pieces. Barnhart, Daugharthy and MacDonald offer a triple delight in a show that builds to a fever-pitch by the finale.
Daugharthy, who certainly comes to mind when thinking about a Sinatra show, showcased his smooth baritone vocals with a plethora of songs recorded by Sinatra. Use of his smooth delivery, silver-throated easy delivery, Daugharthy added to his aura with facial gestures that help push his performance to new highs. Act I controlled his powerful vocals on “All or Nothing at All,” “I Could rite a Book,” “Bewitched,” and “From Here to Eternity,” among others. His duets with MacDonald and Barnhart allowed for more forceful and animated performances. Even though his Act I offered many opportunities to perform Sinatra classics, it was one song in Act II that allowed Daugharthy the solution to controlled vocals when he cut loose with the most memorable performance of the evening, “Mack the Knife.” The power of his voice, the strength, and expression on the song epitomized the evening.
MacDonald, a frequent performer throughout the Kansas City stages, again delivered a dynamite performance and used the low and middle rang of her fantastic soprano range. Her rendition of “Where or When,” allowed for the full, warm tones of her low register to deliver a poignant lyric that drew fervent audience approval. Her funny duet with Barnhart, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” drew smiles before she surprised the audience by belting out “My Kind of Town,” in a style similar to the great Ethel Merman. Other standout numbers included “Night and Day,” “Fools Rush In,” and the comedic, “French Foreign Legion.” Her soulful “The Summer Wind,” and “Strangers in the Night,” showed her softer, sensual side. Her duets with Barnhart and Daugharthy gave her opportunities to display other performance styles and vocal tones.
Barnhart, usually known for performing novelty songs and adding his tongue in cheek narration changed his persona for All Sinatra and left almost all of the commentary to MacDonald and Daugharthy. When he performed, it was more serious than normal, starting with “Everything Happens to Me,’ and following later with “My Funny Valentine. ” In Act II, Barnhart returned to his more upbeat style with audience encourage participation on “High Hopes.”
For those who want to know what to expect, look at the song list of the show: “A Foggy Day,”
“A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,” “All or Nothing at All,” “All the Way,” “At Long Last Love,” “Bewitched,” “Blues in the Night,” “Chicago,” “Come Fly with Me,” “Everything Happens to Me,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Fools Rush In,” “For Once in My Life,” “French Foreign Legion,” “From Here to Eternity,” “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,” “High Hopes,” “I Could Write a Book,” “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “Love and Marriage,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “Mack the Knife,” “Mr. Success,” “My Kind of Town,” “My Funny Valentine,” “New York, New York,” “New York, New York, (It’s a Helluva Town),” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Night and Day,” “One for My Baby,” “Put Your Dreams Away,” “Saturday Night,” “Strangers in the Night,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “The Summer Wind,” “The Second Time Around,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “The Tender Trap,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” “Witchcraft,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “You’re Sensational,” “Young at Heart,”and “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.”
For a fabulous evening of Old Blue Eyes’ classics and strong musical performances, do not miss All Sinatra at Quality Hill Playhouse. The show guarantees to touch many cherished memories and lead audiences through two hours of fantastic Sinatra songs. Many songwriters wrote the music, and many lyricists supplied the lyrics, but Frank Sinatra turned them into hits.
For tickets and information, check out the website: qualityhillplayhouse.com.