It was a musical homecoming for two of the performers in “The Vegas Rat Pack,” which opened a one-week run Tuesday at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI.
Bruce Hammond and Seth Abrams, both Barnies during the 1990’s, are center stage as two music legends — Frank Sinatra (Hammond) and Dean Martin (Abrams). Completing the famous trio in the show conceived by Hammond and Abrams is Kenny Jones as the multi-talented Sammy Davis Jr.
Their original show offered audience members their own musical homecoming, as the three — individually and together — offered a look back at the songs they made famous, many of which have become an integral part the American songbook.
All three have strong voices and obviously enjoy reinventing the melodies which easily carried listeners back to the 1950s-60s.
It was an unashamedly nostalgic program, filled with pop ballads, show tunes and up tempo songs which frequently found audience members singing (or hmming) along.
It was that kind of an evening.
After a down-home opening by Barn regular Charlie King and his guitar, the trio offered a rousing rendition of “I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die” followed by “Luck Be A Lady,” then turned the spotlight over to Abrams.
Most familiar of Dino’s hits in this segment were “That’s Amore,” “Ain’t That A Kick in The Head” and “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.” Abrams was much more active than the laid-back ccrooner but his forays into the audience were obviously popular.
“Candy Man” and “What Kind of Fool Am I” were standouts when Jones took the stage, horn-rimmed glasses and all. His time center stage also featured impersonations including Louis Armstrong and Jimmy Durante and his solo finale was one of Davis’ musical trademarks, “Mr. Bojangles.”
Jones was an enthusiastic favorite of the audience and, like Hammond, came close to capturing the essence of Davis’ persona.
The Chairman of the Board — Francis Albert Sinatra — took the spotlight for a good deal of the second act and,
when MC King introduced his set as “saving the best for last,” he was not exaggerating too much.
The quiet command of the stage that Sinatra exuded was replicated here, as was the silky voice that made every phrase sound effortless.
From his extensive repertoire came melodies that turned back the time clock and made this listener long for that a smoother, sweeter time. “Come Fly With Me,” “One For My Baby,” “Strangers In The Night,” “Witchcraft,” “All The Way,” “Chicago” (recreated as “Augusta”), “That’s Life” and “New York, New York” were just a few of the reasons he could have gone on singing all night.
Personally, I could have used more music rather than the rather lame comedy bits that peppered the script.
The band, made up of local musicians under the direction of John Jay Espino, offered instrumental support and the minimal stage set left a lot of room for the music.
“THE VEGAS RAT PACK” plays through Sunday in The Barn Theatre on M-96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For show times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121. There is special pricing for this show only.