Heaven Help Us!

The era of the Rat Pack and its attendant culture of rigid sexual role-playing and heavy drinking may be passé among the illuminati, but its music was grand and still holds sway with jazz fans. So, it's no surprise that someone would come up with a vehicle for resurrecting this repertoire and wrapping a story around it—thus, Ray Roderick's current Broadway-hopeful creation, Heaven Help Us!

After a rousing overture by the 15-piece band, we hear the voice of G-d explaining to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. that they must go back down to earth and lend a hand to a suicidal young Las Vegas bar owner, Vic, who, as it turns out, was driven to this desperate state by something Old Blue Eyes had said to him years before.

Photo of (L-R) Eddie Korbich, Julian Rebolledo, and Mark Zimmerman
(L-R) Eddie Korbich, Julian
Rebolledo, and Mark Zimmerman
Photo credit: Terry Shapiro
Presumably, since these three swingers have long ago lost their bodies, they must inhabit those of the most available candidates, in this case three white guys hanging out in Vic's bar. STRIKE ONE: Sammy Davis, Jr.'s notable breakthroughs of racial barriers in entertainment and marriage (May Britt) are completely trivializied by the inexplicable choice of casting "The Candyman" as white.

This is no slight on the talent of Eddie Korbich, who dances and sings his heart out as the one-eyed, Jewish, African-American free-spirit (and author of Yes I Can), and who occasionally does a letter-perfect imitation of Davis. But the few jokes in the script that refer to this color switch are no excuse for an insult to all the black actors who could have played this role.

At the center of the group is, of course, Sinatra, who gave the marching orders for what he called "the Clan." While Mark Zimmerman certainly has the swagger to match the Chairman of the Board, his vocals rarely sustain the illusion that we're listening to the most successful male big band vocalist in history. STRIKE TWO: If you're gonna build a show around the Rat Pack, you'd better have somebody that can pull off the Sinatra impressions.

Only Dean Martin comes off well in this body snatching business, with Julian Rebolledo emulating every nuance of Dino's endearing, but dated, shtick. Whether he's falling over drunk onto the floor, crooning "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime" and "Volare," or bantering with "the broads" in the audience, Rebolledo is seamless in his impersonation.

Photo of (L-R) Julian Rebolledo, Mark Zimmerman, Eddie Korbich, Jodi Stevens, and Adam Pelty
(L-R) Julian Rebolledo, Mark Zimmerman,
Eddie Korbich, Jodi Stevens, and Adam Pelty
Photo credit: Terry Shapiro
Finally, the boys are joined by Jodi Stevens, who is inhabited by "Angie," an angel who bears a striking resemblance to a frequent Rat Pack carouser, Angie Dickinson. FOUL TIP: Stevens certainly has all the attributes to compare favorably with the object of her mimicing, but choosing somebody who's still alive for this job is a non sequitor.

Photo of Adam Pelty
Adam Pelty
Photo credit: Terry Shapiro
Adam Pelty escapes comparison, since he's playing Vic, though judging from the few occasions when he is called upon to imitate his benefactors, he might have been a good choice as a young, scrawny Sinatra knock-off.

Leading up to the production, director and choreographer Ray Roderick promised that this was not a musical review disguised as a musical, but ultimately the production is forced to rely on a 25-minute concert due to the lack of a sustainable storyline. STRIKE THREE: If you're going to organize a production around such tunes as "Fly Me to the Moon," "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," "I've Got the World on a String," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Nice and Easy," "One For My Baby," "Young at Heart," and "You Make Me Feel So Young," and you don't have any name singers on the stage, you had better produce a crooner who can sing like the cat who made these songs famous, or you're just pushing a glorified karaoke night for some pretty fancy prices.

Heaven Help Us! runs through October 3rd. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows


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