Sammy, Frank and Dean and the Burelli Sisters wishing you season's greetings

Christmas with the Rat Pack

- live from Las Vegas

The New Alexandra Theatre


WHEN you have those wonderful numbers from the golden age of the big band and the great American songbook you have a head start when it comes to putting on a show.

Names such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Mel Torme, Nelson Riddle and of course Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr immediately spring to mind and it is not just nostalgia with swing, memories with rhythm, this is music that has stood the test of time.

But sadly time has not really been a friend to The Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas.

The first show opened in 2000 and reached the  West End 2003 and this Christmas version has the original West End trio of Sinatra, Martin and Davis Jr in Stephen Triffitt, Mark Adams, and George Daniel Long who to be fair look and sound close enough to the men they are portraying to be more than karaoke performers.

Adams has that twinkle in his voice that Martin perfected in his stage act as the permanently, half drunk womaniser while Triffitt manages the distinctive phrasing of Sinatra that sounded so easy yet is so difficult to achieve if you wanted to breathe as well as sing.

 Long had the voice and the nervous energy of Sammy but one of Sammy Davis Jr's great talents was as a tap dancer – one of the best ever – and any portrayal without it is a bit like a sandwich without a filling.

Sammy swinging the night away with the Burelli Sisters

The problem is not the three main characters portraying the long dead stars though, its is that the formulae is starting to look a little tired, the jokes and quips a little old. The trio's patter was male bonding banter with Sinatra the sophisticated, smooth chairman of the board, Dino the perpetual drunk and Sammy, the black one-eyed Jew as he described himself, there to be mocked and put upon in the nicest possible way.

All good natured, low key and, considering there were still many theatres at that time who would not book black performers, fairly revolutionary in the days the trio ruled the roost in Las Vegas at the Sands Hotel.

It was the language of night clubs half a century ago. The settings were glittering sophistication, the patter less so.

The comedy might be authentic and taken from the original shows with the original stars but now it just seems dated, which seems a strange thing to say when the whole show is designed, successfully, to take us back to the late 1950s and 60s.

The dress, band arrangements and even the mics with yards of trailing leads are all from the era as are the Burelli Sisters, not in age, I hasten to add, just in style and concept.

The sisters are the close harmony trio of Grace Holdstock, Frankie Jenna and Soophia Foroughi in their satin Santa outfits and posh frocks which had 50s and 60s stamped, or wired, all over them.  A female trio of singers were as essential as a big name band leader for any self respecting dance band in the golden age.


The dialogue though has fared less well. You might think to yourself I remember dresses just like that or harmonies that went that way, and those songs . . . and a warm glow of nostalgia wafts over you.

But that does not happen with old one-liners and jokes that were never really good enough to become old friends in the first place and have been heard so often they generate smiles rather than laughs.

That being said the banter is pleasant enough and is hardly the reason people go to see or more accurately listen to the show.

Its whole purpose is as a showcase for the numbers made famous by the trio with songs such as Sinatra's New York, New York, Chicago, Come Fly With Me or I Got You Under My Skin, Martin's Ain't That a Kick in the Head,  Baby it's Cold Outside or King of the Road and Sammy Davis with Mr Bojangles and For Once in My Life. Pity Bojangles was cut so much though, it's a great song but perhaps a six minute running time almost needs a show of its own.

As a Christmas version of the show there are a few festive songs and snatches of carols added with a gentle, easy version of White Christmas from Sinatra and Mel Torme's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas recorded by Sinatra in 1946 – which is even older than me.

It is still a night of nostalgia and classy music – helped by the nine strong big band – but somehow I can't help but think it needs a new spark to reignite the magic. To 3-12-11

Roger Clarke 

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