The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas

The New Alexandra Theatre


Frank Sinatra would have been 103 this year – heck, it’s even 20 years since he died – but his popularity has hardly waned.

He was arguably the best popular singer of the 20th century, making standards his own and making his own, standards, but more than that he represents a golden age of music and American culture in the 1950s.

In an age when our view of America came from movies and the likes of I love Lucy and Sgt Bilko on TV, The Rat Pack, Sinatra, Dean Marin and Sammy Davis Jr, along with Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, were the glamorous royalty of Las Vegas, itself a kitsch world of glamour and excess - along with that tingle of excitement from the mob connections.

And it was still in the age of the great American songbook.

In short, a visit from the Rat Pack is a stageful of nostalgia wrapped around some great swing and big band numbers.

Some of the patter- Dean Martin had some great lines – might be authentic but times have moved on which makes some of the comments and interplay with Sammy Davis a touch uncomfortable in these more PC days.

But this is a show about the music with Garrett Phillips a very passable Frank. With his parted hair Phillips has a look of Sinatra and manages a similar voice, but where he really scores is in employing the same phrasing.

It gave Sinatra much of his style, developed and honed during his time with Nelson Riddle, Nat King Cole’s musical director.

In a way it was Sinatra’s second coming after his career had stalled, but it brought him international fame with the likes of The Lady is a Tramp and I’ve Got You Under My Skin.


Nicola Emmanuel as Ella Fitzgerald - who would have been 100 this year

The show also showcases Sinatra’s later signature songs such as That’s Life, My Kinda Town, New York, New York and perhaps the song that was Sinatra, My Way which for Sinatra and, at the Alex, for Phillips, was a show stopper, literally in this case, a finale to remember.

Phillips sang it quite beautifully, full of feeling and emotion to end an entertaining show.

Nigel Casey gave us a likeable Dean Martin, a man whose career was supposed to end when he broke up with Jerry Lewis – at least that is what the critics said . . . what do they know.

Instead he went from strength to strength as both actor and singer, comedian, producer and TV host with a relaxed style and signature songs such as That’s Amore, Volare, Sway and Everybody Loves Somebody.

Incidentally, despite his reputation and on stage personae, Martin was never more than a modest drinker.

Darren Charles had the difficult job, playing Sammy Davis Jr. Luckily for him he didn’t have to play vibraphone or trumpet, drums or do impressions, nor was he required to really tap – Davis really was a son of vaudeville.

His 1962 recording of What Kind of Fool am I was a contender for record of the year and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Added to the mix this year was Nicola Emmanuel as Ella Fitzgerald, to mark the centenary of the jazz legend’s birth, while Amelia Adams-Pearce, Rebecca Parker and Joanna Walters added backing and harmony as the shapely Burelli sisters – another moment of nostalgia for a time when women on stage were sexy, with glamour, legs and curves.

There were some nice touches, such as still using wired microphones with leads snaking all over the stage while the 12-piece band under musical director Matthew Freeman provides a classy, authentic, big-band sound.

It might not be the real thing, but that hardly matters; from the age of the audience the music and the memories are enough, it's a chance to soak up a little nostalgia and a glimpse of times long gone – listening not just to the Rat Pack but to our youth. To 31-03-18

Roger Clarke


Index page Alex Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre