Our era of the 2000s and 2010s has been a glorious mess in the age of the internet, with its avant garde styles, eclectic mix of music and chaotic meme humour. It’s wonderful in its own right but we are also a nostalgic generation, longing for the big trendsetting moves of the 80s and the psychedelia of the 70s (without all the racism and sexism of course). But many of us miss a time we’ve only ever heard of through record players and hit HBO shows: the classy, jazzy, martini club legacy of the 60s. Specifically, the swingin’ Rat Pack music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
The British Theatre Playhouse of London’s West End has captured this nostalgia the best way they can: through reincarnating the legacy of these musicians through a live musical spectacle! In association with Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia and in conjunction with its efforts to support the United Nations’ International Day of Drug Abuse, The Definitive Rat Pack was performed at The Hilton, KL on the 1st of July, with West End performers and a big swinging 9-piece band. The big gala event was expensive, with charity tickets available from RM5,000 onwards for a table of ten that included a pre-show dinner and tickets priced at least RM200 but audiences could rest assured knowing it was going to a great cause.
The show itself was a medley of some of the best and most iconic pieces from the golden age of jazz, featuring acclaimed performers Stephen Triffit, who crooned his way into our hearts with his powerful imitation of Frank Sinatra, Mark Adams who played Dean Martin in all his playfulness and love for alchohol and George Daniel Long, who wowed us with his astounding range and impeccable personality as the late, great Sammy Davis Jr. These are the original cast that have faithfully recreated the Rat Pack’s legacy since the show first premierd in London’s West End in 2003 and have been crooning ever since. The show and its cast have regularly appeared on television in the UK and on BBC, ITV, FOX, CBS and PBS with major orchestra performances in the UK and Amsterdam. Without realising it, many audience members were in for a treat and got to witness live what 10 million other people have only seen on their television screens.
Proper credit must be given to musical director Toby Cruz, for the live band’s finesse and twists that keep these age-old icons fresh and new for the audience. Some of the accompaniments that stood out to us were the lead electric guitar that took a break from the big band melodies of the troupe and allowed the solo numbers to breathe and impress us more. It was also a special edition of the performance as the show was joined by yet another celebrated West End performer, Hannah Lindsey who played Nancy Sinatra and sang and danced to a medley of crowd favourites. She was a wonderful performer and would have stolen the show with her rendition of Bang, Bang (I Shot My Baby Down) and How Does That Grab You?
We were lucky enough to hear our favourite songs played in tribute to these swinging legends, like Dean Martin’s That’s Amore, That’s Life and Sway. We would have loved to hear more from Sammy Davis Jr’s imitator’s powerful vocals but were lucky enough to enjoy Something’s Gotta Give and Mr Bojangles. Stephen Triffit as Frank Sinatra stole the show of course, with those powerful vocals and spot-on Sinatra charm. Fans of Sinatra were excited to hear hits like Come Fly With Me, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, New York New York and right at the end of the show, his signature My Way.
The Definitive Rat Pack was a show of elegance and panache. While the actors must be commended for how alike they played their real-life counterparts, could be draggy and sometimes overdone at certain points. But for every cringey one-liner about how much the original Rat Packers loved their drink and how smooth they tried to play it with the ladies, there were stunning exhibits of each actor’s vocal chops. If you closed your eyes, you could actually believe the legends were serenading you themselves. Now that’s That Old Black Magic, eh?
4 / 5
Featured image source: dubaiopera.com