REVIEW: Christmas with the Rat Pack: Live from Las Vegas (Theatre Royal Haymarket) ★★★★
Imagine: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, resurrected and brought to you live from the reimagined Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, supported by their Rat Pack Big Band and three gifted female performers – this is certainly an evening promising frivolity of the highest degree. Transported back to the 60’s, we find ourselves staring into a version of history: the Rat Pack drew many famous faces to the Sands Hotel, including John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, to name but a few.
Whether you are a seasoned Rat Pack lover or simply know a few of their hits from your parents or the radio, you’d probably still be astounded by the number of hits in their vast legacy. Tonight’s broad programme presented a repertoire of classics mixed in with well-known Christmas tunes. From ‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head’ to ‘That’s Amore’ and ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ (I bet you sang those titles in your head) to the intoxicatingly fun Christmas Medley, tune after tune we are reminded of how ingrained this music is in our entertainment culture. Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop’s characters are absent from the production, but there is more than enough material regardless.
The characters of Frank, Sammy and Dean are all strikingly different and contribute towards a well-rounded trio of hosts for the evening. Our Frank is played by Garrett Phillips, who delivers a sophisticated and self-assured leading man; his delivery of the infamous ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ was excellent, hitting all of the much-celebrated and iconic notes.
David Hayes explodes on to the stage as Sammy, expressing his characteristic vibrancy and sense of humour, and skilfully performing his signature vocal gymnastics. Nigel Casey delivers a suave and stylish Dean, managing to effectively feign drunkenness whilst also delivering beautiful vocals throughout. It’s important to remember in these tribute act scenarios that these performers are impersonating legends, whose characteristics and voices are known across the world and evidenced in countless films and recordings, and will obviously never be carbon copies, but these gentlemen truly committed to learning their characters.
The Big Band, led by Michael Freeman, complemented the boys’ vocals brilliantly without overshadowing them in volume, and operated a busy programme of over 30 songs with great skill; I particularly enjoyed the part where they all put on Santa hats.
The Burelli Sisters, played by Joanna Walters, Laura Darton and Amelia Adams-Pearce, added undeniable glamour to the production. Behind the fabulously glitzy outfits and flirtatious demeanours were three excellent voices, all of which complimented the style of music and any duets they had with the boys. Historically, the Pack did not usually sing with female performers, and these sisters did not actually exist! Yet it’s difficult to imagine a show without them in it; a great addition by Director Mitch Sebastian.
Whilst the first half took a while to ease into, the second half flows at a much more natural pace, probably because it is more of a set ‘scene’, with the Rat Pack assembled around a makeshift sleigh bar. Between the songs was a relaxed, self-assured pace filled with banter between the boys, humorous anecdotes and bouts of nostalgia that added to the 60’s atmosphere being created. The choreography could have been tighter in places, with a lack of synchronisation noticed in several dance numbers. Apart from a few structural issues that could easily be re-jigged in time for January, all this needs is a polish.
This is a sensational time-machine with history at its core: celebrity revival, charm, fun, the opportunity to dance, sing and laugh. The cast is multi-talented and offer the full performing package. Whether you think this is your thing or not, trust me: it is. You’ll be singing along and tapping your foot whether you realise it or not.
Reviewed by Laura Evans
Photo: Betty Zapata