THE RAT PACK IS BACK at Fox is excellent, fan-pleasing Vegas show
– By Cate Marquis –
Frank, Dino and Sammy – the “Rat Pack” – took to the Fabulous Fox Theater stage Friday night, or at least THE RAT PACK IS BACK tribute version of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. at the height of their Las Vegas heyday. THE RAT PACK IS BACK, a Las Vegas-based tribute show, brought back the famous trio for three-day run, Feb. 22-24, at the Fox.
The Rat Pack remains the iconic symbol of the late 1950s- early 1960s era, particularly footage of the trio on a Vegas stage in 1960 in a birthday concert for Sinatra. That performance forms the base for this entertaining show, but it also draws on other performances, separate or together, by these legendary entertainers. And legendary they were, in their era and now among those who remember them and those who just embrace the “Mad Men” nostalgia these artists spark.
This is a top-notch, polished show, backed by an excellent on-stage big band jazz orchestra led by musical director Lon Bronson. The performances not only faithfully recreate the trio’s singing but the three performers embody full impersonations of their famous personae. Drinking, joking, wise-cracking, and sex-based humor abound in this retro show for grown-ups.
Chris Jason, as Sinatra, is particularly good, capturing the vocal style and famous phrasing perfectly but also his speaking voice, movements and his flippant yet charming stage persona. The show is built around Chris Jason’s Frank, a portrayal he has honed for years, with the other two cast in their roles. However, they are excellent as well.
Drew Anthony is entertaining as Dean Martin, capturing his drunken routine on stage perfectly as well as his singing. In many ways, Kenny Jones had the toughest job as the multi-talented Sammy Davis Jr., who was a singer, dancer, actor and comedian. Yet Jones pulls it off with bravura and style, earning some of the biggest applause.
Since the show was based historic material, particularly that 1960 Vegas performance, Jason’s Sinatra had to periodically remind the audience they were in pre-politically correct 1960 when the adult-orientated edgy material occasionally strayed over the line with sexual or ethnic jokes. Generally, the audience went with the period vibe and seemed to have a great time.
The show featured a fair amount of audience participation, particularly a teasing, mildly-risque running routine Drew Anthony’s Dean played out with a woman in the audience. The second half of the show featured a Playboy Bunny, played hilariously by Joelle Jenson, who added more playfully sexy audience-participation humor. The only part of the show that did not quite work was the sing-along portion to famous hits, which the performers launched into before the audience was sufficiently warmed up to want to sing.
Whether audience members were old enough to remember the Rat Pack or younger ones embracing their music now, it was a delightful evening for fans of Frank, Dino and Sammy.
© Cate Marquis