This afternoon I drove over to Marian College to see the Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s production of “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra.” It was conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson. Civic’s production was directed and choreographed by Cynthia Collins, with music direction by Terry Woods and orchestra management by Al French.
Today was the last performance, so I know you won’t be using this review to help you decide whether or not to go see this show. However, I would like to write about it anyway, just because.
It was a TREAT.
Four excellent singer-dancers – Katy Gentry, Troy Johnson, Tobin Strader, and Annette “Missie” Hirsch – with the help of a skillful three-member orchestra – Terry Woods on piano, Frank Niemiec on percussion, and Al French on bass – performed several delightful medleys from the more than 1300 songs that Sinatra recorded during his legendary career.
Interspersed with the songs, and amplified in the program, were fascinating and amusing bits of information about “Old Blue Eyes.” The show by itself was richly satisfying, but it also made me want to learn more about Frank Sinatra on my own and to begin collecting his recordings to listen to at home.
The set, which was designed by James O. Schumacher and lit by Ryan Koharchik, was like the setting of a gorgeous platinum cocktail ring, with all of the beautifully dressed musicians (costumes by Jean Engstrom) as the gemstones.
It didn’t really look like a ring, though. That’s just what it made me feel. Actually, a generous background pattern of vertical rectangles and squares moved and changed colors to fit the moods of the songs. A large, stylized moon face dropped smoothly down in the second act during the “Moon Medley,” which included the song that woke the astronauts up: “Fly Me to the Moon.”
The orchestra was on a platform that had smaller platforms attached to it. The singers moved gracefully around on the platforms. They also moved around a small bar and a small nightclub table that were further downstage. Sometimes they danced in what I think of as “soft shoe” style. Other times, they formed two couples and danced ballroom-style. Sometimes they sang solos. Other times they harmonized together in various combinations. It was all very romantic and exciting.
My ticket was for a seat on the first floor so that is where I sat during the first act. But there is no coat check at Civic, so we were all crammed in like airplane passengers. I decided I would try the slightly less-populated balcony during the second act.
I think the balcony was only open because the president of the college was having a party for people who had given money. Only after I found an empty seat did I realize that I was the only one up there without a name tag on. But my new seatmates were very nice to me. One lady in a fur coat even patted my shoulder after I had cheered loudly during the curtain call and said, “I like the way you show your enjoyment, dear.”
I mention all this in order to tell you that the songs were as big and rich and wonderful way up there, too. This show really filled the theatre with emotion and beauty.
One of the singers said that Frank Sinatra never gave an encore, but they were going to sing “I’ll Be Seeing You” in honor of military service men and women. They didn’t think Frank would mind, because he had been a patriot his whole life.
As the singers left the stage for the final time, Tobin Strader left his fedora on the central microphone, and the lights dimmed to a gentle spotlight on it, in memory of Frank.
I drove home humming many of the songs that had been shared, and thinking about several of the quotes that had been shared:
Frank once said that the secret to his success was singing good songs. This made me laugh because it was such simple and good advice!
He also said (I am paraphrasing) that because of the many challenging things that he had been through, he was particularly well-suited to feel and express both sadness and elation. “I know what the cat who wrote the song was trying to say. I’ve been there and back.” I believe that, too.
His wish for one of his friends was this: “I hope you live to be a hundred years old and that my voice is the last thing you hear before you die.”
I hope that the last thing I hear is the voice of someone who knows me and loves me…but if that’s not possible, then I definitely want to hear Frank’s voice singing to me instead.
One of the singers in this show, Tobin Strader, will also appear in the Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s next production, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which opens March 7 and runs through March 22. Please call 923-4597 for more information or to make reservations.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com