Richard Shelton talks about bringing you the closest you’ll ever come to Frank Sinatra at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Richard Shelton
Name of Edinburgh show: ‘Sinatra: RAW’
Venue: Frankenstein Pub
Performance time: 1.15pm
Show length: 1 hour
Ticket price: Free fringe with limited advance

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
It’s been a journey from Wolverhampton to Emmerdale and on to Hollywood! I set up the Bridewell Theatre in London after leaving a formative career in the hotel business, so came to a life in show business at the ripe old age of 32 meaning I had to work hard and catch-up! A lot of theatre roles and stints on TV followed, including EastEnders, before I took a break from acting and focussed on a jazz singing career. Frank Sinatra plays a huge part in my life and my two careers, singing and acting, came together perfectly when I portrayed Sinatra in the hard-hitting West End drama, Rat Pack Confidential. I was very privileged to be nominated ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ (Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards) for that role. Interestingly, when I did the show, I found out that I’m exactly the same size as Frank Sinatra, borne out when his tuxedo literally walked into my life in LA, where I currently live. It is one of the many strange coincidences and synchronicities I share with him. Others include being one of the last people inside his last home as it was being demolished in LA, placing my hands and feet inside his imprints on the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ to find they were an exact fit and were startlingly made on my birthday (20 July). I produced a show called ‘A Very Good Year’ with his living band mates and recorded my swing album, ‘Lost and Found’ with them in Sinatra’s studio B at Capitol Records, using his personal microphone. I’ve brought these coincidences together in a show called, ‘Sinatra and Me’ which sold out at last year’s festival and in venues across the UK and America.

In other roles, I’ve recorded at Abbey Road, performed for Prince Charles at Windsor Castle, sung with big bands and orchestras across the world and at Ronnie Scott’s in London.

Earlier this year I co-starred as the real life charismatic preacher, Major Ian Thomas in the movie, ‘Palau’ shot in Argentina and was also nominated ‘Best Supporting Actor’ in the short horror/thriller film, ‘Do Not Disturb’.

I love playing villains the best – it’s always much more fun to play a baddie. Playing the charmingly murderous Dr Adam Forsythe in Emmerdale for 2 years was an absolute riot!

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
‘Sinatra: RAW’ imagines Frank Sinatra at his last intimate gig in Palm Springs before his retirement. The air is electric and people jostle for position. He drinks ‘One For My Baby’ too many and starts to reminisce. But things take an unexpected turn. This is the 2am Sinatra you dream of meeting: Dangerous. Unpredictable. Startling. Brilliant. He addresses his accusers on subjects ranging from his alleged Mafia connections, his womanising, to his famed hatred of the press. And in-between, he sings in that smokey midnight voice on subjects from lost love to getting even! Songs include ‘One For My Baby’, ‘My Way’, ‘I’m a Fool to Want You’, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ and a haunting acapella version of ‘My Foolish Heart’ which he sang to Ava Gardner from his hotel balcony at night in her bungalow below – true story!

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
The idea came to me about a year ago when I performed at the Purple Room, Palm Springs, which is where Sinatra performed the ‘Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ album. He’d recorded it at a time of great personal heartbreak following the end of his marriage to Ava Gardner and the song selection on the album talks of lost love and broken hearts. The story goes that Dean Martin was in the crowd that night and cried out, ‘For Gods sake, Pally, cheer up!’. Sinatra responded with a throw away comment, the room relaxed and that was the start of the notorious ‘Rat Pack’ act. In ’Sinatra: RAW’, I imagine and evoke what was going on inside the icon’s mind as he faced middle age and the rapidly changing political and social landscape of the 1970’s, much like we are facing great change and uncertainty today. Sinatra’s music endures and he’s a magical story teller, so I think hearing how he thought and reacted about events unfurling around him has a resonance to us today.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors?
Wear comfortable shoes and always carry a fold-up waterproof! Don’t be afraid to take risks with shows – some you’ll enjoy and some you won’t but the beauty of the festival is the vast richness of talent on offer. The enthusiasm and fun is so infectious so just go with the flow, eat, drink and most of all, just enjoy it!

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I was in a fringe show at the White Bear in Kennington. I played a horrible villain (again!) and didn’t make my entrance until the start of act 2. One extremely hot night as the audience were literally melting in their seats, I finally walked on and opened my mouth only to be drowned out by the sound of 2 dogs pleasuring themselves on the roof above. I hope their union resulted in a clutch of lovely puppies!

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Frank Sinatra – he was the perfect combination of magnificent talent and ‘couldn’t give a damn’ charm. Anyone who can cock his hat at that angle and sing, “Fairy Tales do come true, it can happen to you…” and make you believe it gets my vote.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Apart from getting nervous and breathing deeply every time, no.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Once Seen on Blue Peter – I can’t wait!

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
It’s the closest you’ll ever get to spending an hour with Frank Sinatra.


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