Hot on the heels of its home-brewed musical homage to Louis Prima - the Big Easy Award nominated "Jump, Jive and Wail!" - the National World War II Museum's Stage Door Canteen has come up with a spectacular way to celebrate the man who serenaded America as "The Voice," "Ol' Blue Eyes" and "The Chairman of the Board.": Frank Sinatra. The show playing now through mid May is appropriately titled "My Way."
There are many similarities between "My Way" and "Jump, Jive and Wail!" For starters it is once again directed by National World War II entertainment director and tour de force Victoria Reed. It also has talented music director and Tom Hooks at the piano and stars raven-haired beauty Cristina Perez as one of the four performers who sing the medleys and solos of Sinatra chart toppers. The other members of the ensemble are knockout and super-talented Courtney Boe, suave performer Clint Johnson and dreamboat Ryan Fischer.
But unlike the Prima tribute, this is a show that focuses less on the man and more on the songs. Because Sinatra meant so much to so many Americans, it's perhaps better that way. Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, this show is not an in-house creation. It is licensed through Summerwind Productions and has played both at big houses like the Walnut Theater in Philadelphia and in smaller community venues like its run in Shreveport last September.
The Stage Door Canteen is seemingly perfect for this show because of the intimate aspects of its stage and the subtleties of the script and interpretation of the songs by its stars. At times there are beautiful four-part harmonies that fill the air and some well-crafted choreography by Meliah Henry that accentuate the performers' singing.
All told some 40 Sinatra songs are sung as solo ballads, duets and by all our performers throughout the 70-minute show. Starting with "Strangers in the Night," the title song that won Sinatra his only platinum award for a regular album, it inevitably ends with the ubiquitous "My Way," written by Paul Anka for his musical hero.
When not performing as a quartet, Boe and Johnson are commonly paired while Perez and Fischer frequently share the stage together singing renditions of works written by great songwriters like Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and lyricists like Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Fields and Lorenz Hart.
The list of songs include clever medleys of songs about places ("I Love Paris," "Chicago," "South of the Border," "I Like New York" and "New York, New York") in addition to signature Sinatra tunes like "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Witchcraft," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Fly Me to the Moon" and "All the Way."
Boe, a mainstay as a Victory Belle at the Stage Door Canteen, continues to amaze with her stage presence and seemingly effortless voice acrobatics. Accompanying her with the sexy Perez, who can vamp with the best, was a brilliant choice for Reed. Johnson, who has been featured on the Stage Door Canteen twice previously, has a charming manner and tackles lighthearted classics like "Sunny Side of the Street" and "Makin' Whoopee" with precision. Meanwhile, Fischer, a Tulane graduate and native of Wisconsin, authoritatively handles Sinatra mainstays like "That's Life" and "Young at Heart."
The set, which features a bar replete with cocktail glasses, booze and champagne is lit in a very sultry fashion by designer Alex Quinby in order to accentuate the singing and dancing. It is excellent dressing for the trio of band members who perform live at the rear of the stage led by Hooks on piano. Depending on the song, the singers take turns mixing cocktails for polite company or pouring stiff ones for each other as a torch song is sung.
Johnson and Fisher are nattily attired in white tuxedos, while Boe and Perez have stunning silvery gowns designed by Jordan Ross and built by ABC Costume Shop out of Miami.
John Besh's American Sector Restaurant provides meals with several savory selections as part of a three-course offering of appetizer, entree and desert for an extra charge prior to showtimes. Dinners begin serving at 6:00 p.m., while brunch is served on Sundays beginning at 11:00 a.m.
It all makes "My Way" a really pleasant experience and for Sinatra fans old and young alike a great way to reacquaint themselves with the romantic side of America's greatest crooner.
"My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra" plays most Friday and Saturday evenings at the Stage Door Canteen of the National World War II Museum at 8:00 p.m. Dinner starts serving at 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday night tickets for dinner and the show run $60 (discounted tickets for children under 12 are available), while tickets for just the show are $30. The house will be dark this Saturday evening, March 23, and on Saturday, April 27 as well as on Friday, May 10. Shows on Sundays include brunch served from 11:00 a.m. (show begins at 1:00 p.m.) Brunch tickets cost $55 each with discounted tickets available for children under 12. Two seatings for Mothers' Day brunch will be held with the first beginning at 10:30 a.m. for the 12 noon show and at 2:45 p.m. for the second show that starts at 4:00 p.m. For more information call 504-528-1943 or click here to purchase online.