My Way

Musical tributes are a theatrical art form unto themselves. When the tribute honors a composer/songwriter, one expects a variety of interpretations from the vocal artists. But when the tribute is to a singer, the choices are more problematic: should the vocal artists perform the songs in the style of the artist they're honoring; or should they put their own spin on the song; and if they put their own spin on the songs, aren't they really honoring the songwriters, not the singer?

Photo of (L-R) John Fredo, Laura Ryan, Shannan Steele, Fran Prisco
(L-R) John Fredo, Laura Ryan,
Shannan Steele, Fran Prisco
Photo: Terry Shapiro
In the case of My Way, a tribute to Frank Sinatra that just opened at the Garner Galleria Theatre, co-creators David Grapes and Todd Olson have chosen to reconceive the bulk of the 56 tunes that are covered, entirely or in part, during the course of the two hour and ten minute show. While this leads to smattering of entertaining moments—including some nice dance numbers—these passing pleasures are nothing that couldn't be had from any upscale nightclub act, no matter how much the action is wrapped in interesting tidbits concerning Ol' Blue Eyes' life in the fast lane.

Photo of John Fredo
John Fredo
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Certainly the cast is talented—John Fredo originated the role of Man #1, while Fran Prisco performed this show in Philadelphia; and Shannon Steele and Laura Ryan are among the most talented leading ladies in regional musical theatre—but they are fighting against a misconceived idea.

Sinatra fans will come wanting to hear some live phrase or tilt of the fedora that will briefly create the illusion that the Chairman of the Board has somehow miraculously revisted us, if only for a moment, to thrill us with his special gift of song. Alas, only Jon Fredo, with his passing resemblance to the early middle-aged Frank, in body and in voice, can make us believe.

Why not let him take a stab at this, and have him tell us the anecdotes as if it were his way? He could still pal around with Dino and the boys, and romance countless women, which would leave room for the talented ensemble to help tell the tale of his full life. Otherwise, we're better off revisiting that old black magic which, thankfully, awaits us on many fine recordings.

Denver Center Attractions presentation of My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra runs through November 6th at the Garner Galleria Theatre. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows


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