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MY WAY

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Frank Sinatra was the singers' singer, and his spectacular career spans several generations of fans who still listen to his music. This production comes with a caveat: If people come to look for impersonations, they will be disappointed. A program note claims that the concert attempts to "recall the essence of the man."

The setting is a supper club featuring a six-man combo led by pianist/conductor Tom Griffin. Two men and two women (Nikki Crawford, Tami Tappan Damiano, Damon Kirsche, and Kevin Earley) dressed in their glamorous best share the spotlight in many duets, solo numbers, and even a choreographed (Dan Mojica) moment or two. Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson after Sinatra's death, the show includes biographical details and quotes that paint a surprisingly bland picture of the man whose escapades with women, hints of Mafia ties, Rat Pack excesses, and pugnacious scrapes are legendary.

The playwrights quote Sinatra as saying the secret of his success was that he sang great songs. If that were true, then this show should be a winner, because his signature songs and the rest of the selections encompass some of the greats. However, it takes more than that. What Sinatra had was a velvet baritone, remarkable instinctive styling, and a sense of the soul of the song. He made the commonplace special. The cast, though blessed with great voices, miss the essence so necessary to capturing that genius. Instead, under Nick DeGruccio's direction, the cast's contrived and unfailingly upbeat posturings bear little resemblance to his interpretations, so, even when many songs cry out for a more sensitive delivery, it is more like Your Hit Parade than like a definition of Sinatra's "way."

DeGruccio's staging fails to do more than move the singers around. Cigarettes and booze are used as props, one gathers, to add that touch of sophistication so necessary to the Sinatra years. Instead they are an awkward artifice that most cast members don't handle well. The total effect, then, falls far short of the stated objective of memorializing Sinatra and becomes instead a tame anthology.

"My Way," presented by McCoy Rigby Entertainment in association with and at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Tue.-Thu. 7:30 p.m., Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2:30 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 & 7 p.m. Feb. 11-27. $32-40. (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310.

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