Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, June, 2002

If you like the Lawrence Welk Show, then you will just love My Way, a lightweight entertainment billed as a “tribute to Frank Sinatra” currently running at the Theater Barn. Basically this is a ninety minute concert of 56 Sinatra standards, strung together by a very few spoken lines. The emphasis is on the music, and, whether it was a hit or not before he sang it, Sinatra always made a song the best that it could be. Alas, Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) is not on the stage.

You will hardly be surprised when I tell you that the show consists of four toothsome, fresh scrubbed young singers, two male and two female, all Caucasian (where’s Sammy?), flitting about on a glossy night club set warbling away. That is about it. Very few songs are sung in their entirety, there is little in the way of choreography, and none of the performers is given a real spotlight number in which to showcase their talents. This is just a brief evening of easy listening. Watching network television is more intellectually challenging.

So it isn’t bad, but I am also not sure that it is theatre in the true sense of the word. It is more nightclub entertainment without the booze and scantily clad cocktail waitresses – the stuff Sinatra himself loved. Sinatra was certainly one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, but he was also a fine actor, a devoted father and friend, an enemy to be reckoned with, a lover, and a husband. Todd Olson’s “book” for the show informs you of a few of these things, but makes no attempt to explore them. The songs are grouped by theme – songs about cities, songs about the moon, songs about love – instead of chronologically, which might have given a better picture of the growth and development of Sinatra’s craft and the changes in the world in which he lived. From 1944, when he made bobby-soxers swoon, to his sold out 80th birthday concert in 1995, Sinatra never went out of style. This show does nothing to explain how he accomplished that feat.

Deborah Bowman, Peter Couchman, Leah Horowitz, and Robert McCaffrey all look swell and sound nice. I applaud the Theater Barn’s resistance of the ubiquitous body mike in its intimate space. Abe Phelps has designed a spiffy set, nicely lit by Allen Phelps. I loved Jimmy Johansmeyer’s stylish, jewel-toned gowns for the ladies – the matching shoes were to die for!

I just wish that somewhere along the line someone had used some imagination. I could have told you pretty much what the evening would consist of before I walked in to the theatre. I wish that director Keith Andrews had encouraged each cast member to develop a unique persona, deliver the songs in an individual style, or kick up their heels a little. But I suppose playing it safe won’t upset the die-hard Sinatra fans that, hopefully, will fill the theatre for this show.

My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra runs through July 7 at The Theater Barn, located on Rt. 20 just west of the town of New Lebanon, NY. The show runs ninety minutes with one intermission and is suitable for the whole family. Call the box office at 518-794-8989 for tickets and information.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 2002

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