For those who like Frank Sinatra and his music, a trip to see Ol’ Blue Eyes, the new production that opened Sept. 12 at The Chestnut Fine Arts Center, means hearing his most famous songs performed in his own distinct style.
Les Lankhorst and Samantha Agron lead a two hour performance and escort audiences down memory lane of the crooner’s hits that spanned a 50 year career. And, like all shows at the Chestnut, some education and surprises always await guests. Agron unveils the two biggest surprises when she sings songs more closely associated with two other legends.
Agron, in Act I sings the Lena Horne song, “Stormy Weather,” and then in Act II belts out the melancholy and heart-wrenching, “The Man That Got Away,” which is mostly associated with Judy Garland and her hit movie, A Star Is Born.
A quick check of the internet finds that Sinatra actually recorded both songs and his version can be both seen and heard. But, Sinatra’s version of the Garland classic is “The Gal That Got Away.” Another surprise comes from Lankhorst in Act II when he does the Sinatra treatment on the Andy Williams classic, “Moon River,”–a song Sinatra also recorded.
Lankhorst remains the focus of the show. He sounds just like Frankie on some songs and very much like Frank on some others. Still, he makes the music his own without changing too much. That, alone is a plus for the performance. People know what a specific song sounds like and expect something very similar. Lankhorst achieves this high performance level without imitation.
The clear and sometimes sultry sounds of Agron’s melodic soprano fit the music to perfection. She can and does handle solos with precise delivery. Her emotional display, as needed, helps propel the songs to fit the mood and theme of the show. She is perfect in solos, duets, and backup roles in the show.
As for Lankhorst, his velvet notes and baritone match perfectly with the Sinatra-themed show. Though much younger than the Rat Pack members, his vocal style would make him equitable with them and their music. Most of the songs performed do not require a lot of range or force, but when needed, that force, power, and emotion come effortlessly to Lankhorst. Doing Sinatra’s music appears to be a natural fit for the crooner.
Act I illuminates much music from Sinatra’s early years and the beginning of the “bobbysocksers.” Such memorable tunes as “Night and Day,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “Where or When,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “All the Way,” “Come Fly with Me,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” among others fill the first half of the show.
Also in the first act, Brad Zimmerman, producer and director, performed the mid-1950s classic, “Young at Heart.” Zimmerman’s performance always adds to the Chestnut’s shows, but for this production, the back up band definitely add much and deserves kudos. Ryan Heinlein blew some cool notes on the trombone. Garett Heinz provided needed percussion for accent and depth. Danny Kaul, a regular performer at The Chestnut, picked the bass and provided the jazz sound so much associated with music of the era. And the woodwinds came to life with flute, saxophone, and clarinet in the talented hands of Harold Steinhardt.
Act I left audiences buzzing during intermission and guessing as to the music for Act II. The first act only served as a precursor for even better things to come.
More recent music of Frank’s career highlighted Act II. “The Way You Look Tonight,” “I’ve Got You Under My kin,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” and “Nice and Easy” jump-started part II.
Other Sinatra classics included “The Summerwind,” “Something Stupid,” “It Was a Very Good Year, “One for My Baby,” “Chicago,” and “New York, New York among others. Agron and Zimmerman performed solos, duets alongside Lankhorst in this songfest, as well.
And, what Sinatra show could end without his two biggest hits of the later career, “That’s Life,” and “My Way”? None. The Chestnut Fine Arts Center’s show did close with those mega-hits from a mega-career.
Each and every song drew thunderous applause and audience approval. Credit Agron, Zimmerman, and especially Lankhorst with creating and performing a plethora of Frank Sinatra hits–and no misses. What a fantastic evening of entertainment, geared toward family fun and many memories. All Sinatra fans need to see this show. Tickets will go fast and performances will sell out as word spreads.
For tickets call 913.764.2121. Ol’ Blue Eyes runs through Oct. 20 with both evening and matinee performances. Call for deetails or check the website: chestnutfinearts.com.