Review by Justin Gilbert
The Songs of Sinatra opened in Preview on Wednesday (September 5) at the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. I wouldn’t normally review a production before opening but not being available Friday, Wednesday was the only opportunity I had to attend the show and I’m certainly glad I did.
It was over two hours of walking down memory lane as seven very talented, very handsome, tuxedo-clad young men presented the hits of “Old Blue Eyes” in their own inimitable styles to the near capacity crowd.
The stage set, designed by D2 Entertainment, is simple but classy and elegant, perfectly suited to the genre of the music. Music Director Mark Payne took up his seat at the piano centre stage and other band members were visible to the audience from their respective locations on stage right and stage left. As always, the music was impeccable and the choreography by Adele MacKenzie was excellent. The lighting was evocative of the era, particularly the “bally hoo” during the closing number of Act One.
It’s not a “tribute” show per se, but the seven singers honour Mr. Sinatra and his music as they perform together in the many medleys and present solos perfectly suited to their unique styles and voices. Dialogue is interspersed throughout the production and we learn some things we may or may not already know about Frank Sinatra. As they perform “You’ve either Got or You Haven’t Got…style, class, charm…”, it’s very evident that this show and these guys have all of that and more.
Michael Vanhevel is perhaps the most comfortable with the material, having performed many of these songs in other shows – it’s his kind of music and he obviously loves it. Chris Sams projects a smooth, clear sound and commands the audience’s attention every time he sings. Graham Parkhurst, last seen on the VPP stage in Godspell earlier this season, exudes a charm and charisma much as I imagine Frank did when an audience fell in love with him. Adam Proulx, George Krissa and Kevin Forestell each contribute in a big way and Sarnia native Chris Zonneville is the quintessential “Broadway” guy whose experience is evident in his style.
In true Artistic Directors Hogan/Rogers fashion, humour is injected throughout the show and Adam Proulx shines as the funny guy. Act Two ends with a particularly moving rendition of Frank’s greatest hit and most recognized song “My Way” written for him by Canadian Paul Anka.
Other than a few insignificant glitches, the show was very smooth artistically and technically. Anything that wasn’t perfect will no doubt be so by opening on Friday night. I never saw Frank Sinatra in person but I can’t imagine that I would have liked him a lot more than I did this group of young performers who are the up and coming stars in their field. I highly recommend this show for its broad appeal across generations, regardless of your level of knowledge of all things “Sinatra”. The audience at the first preview loved it!
The Songs of Sinatra runs through September 23rd with both matinee and evening shows scheduled. For ticket information please contact the VPP Box office at 519-882-1221 or go online to www.thevpp.ca.
Photo courtesy Clouse Photography, Petrolia. Pictured, left to right: George Krissa, Chris Sams, Graham Parkhurst, Chris Zonneville, Kevin Forestell, Adam Proulx, Michael Vanhevel