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LA Theater Review

My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra

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Frank Sinatra recorded far more than 1,000 songs, so a tribute to his musical songbook would clearly need weeding. Creators David Grapes and Todd Olson have done a pretty good job of culling some of the best and putting them together in a lively musical revue. The decision to avoid impersonation allows for two women and two men (Casey Erin Clark, Karen Jeffreys, John Fredo, Jason Watson) to sell the majority of his signature songs, as well as a few less-familiar tunes.

Although the quartet is very good at what it does, its backup music is worth a trip to the theater. Vince di Mura—as music director, conductor, and pianist—leads his combo (James Leary, bass; Drew Hemwall, drums) with all the style one could hope for in a good evening of contemporary jazz with hints of some of Sinatra's famous arrangers.

Director-choreographer Grapes keeps performances up-tempo with a variety of dance steps, particularly in the energetic first act. Fredo is probably closer to the Sinatra style than Watson, and he adds some fairly fluid tap-dancing to a couple of songs. The production is arguably aimed at an older crowd that pines for the days when a song wasn't delivered at 110 decibels with scarcely any recognizable lyrics.

The musical numbers—and there are 57 of them—are interspersed with Sinatra lore: He swam laps to improve his breath control, some days he sang as many as 100 songs on the radio and at other appearances, he was chairman of the board to the Rat Pack, and he loved the ladies. Bruce Goodrich's nightclub setting is enhanced by Paulie Jenkins' mood-changing lighting, and David Edwards adds his fine touch to sound design.

This breaks no new ground in the always fascinating Sinatra legend, but it is an amiable show designed for a pleasant evening of old standards delivered as a tribute to the man critics often call the master of American songs.

Presented by and at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. July 11–Aug. 23. Tue.–Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Also Thu., 2 p.m., Aug. 20.) (949) 497-2787. www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

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