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'Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show' resurrects memories of legendary performers

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"Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show"

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Grab your phone and immediately secure tickets to the newest production at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” that opened May 27 for a one-week run ending June 1, and resurrects the performances of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop in a performance similar to their Las Vegas shows of the early 1960s.

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The show opens with the voice of the comedy master, Buddy Hackett, as God, and shows a video clip of Rat Pack in action, on stage at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas, Nev. God sends them back to perform in one more show and this is it. One by one, each of the four headliners enters the stage in black tuxedos as they introduce themselves, and singing one of Frank Sinatra’s big hits, “My Kind of Town.”

After that, the ensemble cast re-creates what a ring-side-table at the Sands might have been like in the early days of the gambling an entertainment Mecca. The Sands, like the Rat Pack, are long gone, but certainly not forgotten. The saying, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” probably had its origins with the Rat Pack.

What could be more difficult than portraying a musical high in error and legend like Frank Sinatra? How could anyone encompass the talent of Dean Martin, who assailed at comedy with his partner Jerry Lewis, before his solo career as a singer and comic? How could anyone capture the essence, of the barrier breaking Sammy Davis Jr., a small, multi-talented, Black, singer, dancer, actor, comic, one-eyed Jew? And how could anyone re-create Joey Bishop, who was known mostly as a member of the Rat Pack, and for his night time comedy talk-show?

Obviously, those iconic figures are gone but certainly not forgotten. This week creation of one evening in their performance lives, resurrects fond memories and tugs the heartstrings of the audience. Heap lots of credit and give standing ovations to the talented cast that creates this phenomenal performance.

Sandy Hackett, son of Buddy Hackett, portrays Joey Bishop and keeps the audience in stitches with his comic one-liners, his interaction with the various others, and his playfulness and characters throughout the show. Tom Wallek plays a fun, but drunk, Dean Martin and even bounces off the stage for some audience participation on one of Dean Martin’s hits, “That’s Amore.” Sammy Davis Jr.’s character allows Louis Velez to show off the strength and perfect pitch of his vocal abilities. And then there’s Frank, the Chairman of the Board, Old Blue-Eyes, brought to this production by Danny Grewen. This cast takes the audience back 50 years to a time when legends performed on a nightly basis in Las Vegas.

While those are the show’s headliners, Lisa Dawn Miller portrays Frank Sinatra’s love interest. With dark hair, chic costume, and ravishing good looks, the audience knows that Sinatra’s, one-true love, Ava Gardner, broke his heart. The duet, “Things I Should Have Said/Wasn’t I a Good Time” pierce the tough Sinatra facade, depicting a soulful, yearning Sinatra. Miller is the daughter of noted songwriter, Ron Miller who wrote many Motown mega-hits, including “For Once in My Life,” “Touch Me in the Morning,” “A Place in the Sun,” and many more.

Yes, the ensemble cast performs to perfection. But, stand up and cheer for the orchestra and musical director who are as much a part of the show as the entertainers. The creative team deserves equal accolades for this production of “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show.” They are producers, Sandy Hackett and Lisa Dawn Miller; Billy Karl, director; Theodis Rodgers, piano/conductor/musical director; and Jeanne Quinn, art director. Special note needs to applaud Ryan Rose as the drummer. He was the driving pulse of the performance and his percussion stood out.

Musical numbers, though subject to change, include: “Hello, Again”; “My Kind of Town”; “Drink to Me Only”; “That’s Amore”; “Volare”; “That Old Black Magic”; “What Kind of Fool Am I?”; “Sam’s Song”; “Will I Still Be Me?”; Come Fly with Me”; “That’s All”; “The Best Is Yet to Come”; “Fly Me to the Moon”; “You Make Me Feel So Young”; “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”; “For Once in My Life”; “The Things I Should Have Said/Wasn’t I a Good Time?”; “Me and My Shadow”; “Luck Be a Lady”; “A Foggy Day”; “Mack the Knife”; “My Way”; “New York, New York!”; and “Birth of the Blues.”

Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” bring the back the idea of legends of Las Vegas in a captivating show that puts the audience both at ease and feeling like they are seated in one of the tables at The Sands famous Copa Room. Even though playing in large venues, the show and the performers play not only to the front rows but to the sides and balconies.

The comedy within the show changes with each performance and each new city. Last night, the Kansas City jokes peppered the dialogue. The ad-libbing and camaraderie amongst the ensemble created an endearing rapture with the audience. It’s obvious that the cast enjoys each other, and they work flawlessly as the show develops. The repartee between the cast and audience made the show feel real.

Hackett, as Bishop kept the show tightly connected between and during the stints by the other legends. Hackett’s one-liners and audience baiting reflected the days when comedy was clean with few, if any adult language. No where did the F-bomb appear. No dirty jokes. No off-color language. No inappropriate humor. No bashing of any groups. Just clean fun and games. The comedy suggested rather than spelled-out in graphic details the jokes. This was the kind of humor that comics of the day used when comedy was king. . . and clean.

As for the singing performers, they created an image of the legend they portrayed. Yes, they were to be the characters on stage, but each brought a sincerity to their roles. They did not mimic, they created a vision you could grasp without thinking you were seeing a carbon copy.

While Hackett dominated the comedy aspects of the show, Louis Valez stands out for his strong vocals. His performances of “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and “Will I Still Be Me?” drew thunderous audience approval.

Tom Wallek’s Dean Martin showed Martin’s playful side, singing ability, and impromptu adlib side. His solos of “Volare” and “That’s Amore” captured the mega-stardom of the comic/singer. His joking with the audience made every eye focus on him and laugh along with his antics.

As Frank, Danny Grewen had the chance to actually give his character a depth with the duet with Lisa Dawn Miller. Grewen reminded people how great Old Blue Eyes established a career of nearly 50 years. Especially strong for Grewen were “For Once in My Life,” “My Way,” and “New York, New York!”

The love of Frank’s life, Ava Garner. Miller performs the song, “Wasn’t I a Good Time,” written by her father, Ron Miller with a passionate connection to both Sinatra and her father. Her vocals are strong and the performance, poignant.

Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” comes with the highest of recommendations. No one will leave feeling deprived of good, rock-solid entertainment. Nope, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop can never return, but this show cements their memory.

For tickets, go to the Theater League web site and book now while tickets remain available.

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