Friday, 07 August 2015

SINATRA: THE MAN & HIS MUSIC

Frank Sinatra is back (on a large screen) in London, and Ol’ Blue Eyes is still doing it his way

Written by Richard Barber
Richard-Barber-colour-176It is 65 years since Frank Sinatra first stepped onto the stage at the London Palladium. If he were alive, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday on 12 December. So it seems particularly fitting that this theatre should be home to a new multimedia show celebrating his life and talent of this 20th-century icon.

A big cheer then to producer Karl Sydow, working with the blessing of the Sinatra family, for resisting wheeling out a cheesy impersonator to give us little more than a tribute act. As Nancy Sinatra has been saying to anyone who will listen: ‘This is Frank doing Frank.’

And very slick, very polished, it is too, even if there’s a slight corporate whiff to it. An excellent 24-piece live orchestra is arranged on a platform that stretches the width of the stage. There’s a troupe of 20 lively dancers to divert the eye. And there’s Frank, descending time and again on a large screen to sing a succession of his greatest hits, the footage taken from his TV shows.

If it feels slightly curious to be applauding a two-dimensional image (not something you would ever do in a cinema for a movie-musical), there’s no doubting that mellifluous voice. Time and again, you’re also reminded of his exquisite phrasing, but then the man was an accomplished actor – he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Maggio in From Here To Eternity – and it’s this ability to tell a story through song that raised him above so many of his contemporaries.

Threading throughout it all is a somewhat sanitised account of his life. Lovely to see archive material of him with his wife and their three children, the family he inconveniently walked out on when Nancy was 10. Instead, we neatly segue to drooling portraits of his lover, the preposterously glamorous Ava Gardner (briefly his second wife), followed by nauseainducing shots of Frank, aged 50, with 21-year-old Mia Farrow, even more briefly his third wife. The final Mrs S, Barbara Marx, is seen but not mentioned.

But then his alleged Mafia links, his battle with the taxman, his switch in political allegiance from Kennedy in the 1960s to Reagan in the 1980s are all pretty much glossed over. Still, the music’s the thing and, on that score, it’s little wonder he was referred to as the Guv’nor. Diehard fans with deep pockets (the top ticket price is £125) will be more than happy to watch Frank do it his way.

Until 10 October at the London Palladium, Argyll Street, London W1: 0844-412 2704, www.sinatraonstage.com


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