Once in My Life: The Man, The Music, The Legend
Studio Theatre and Cafe
March 28 – May 31
As someone who grew up watching MGM musicals, I’m ashamed to admit how little I really know about Frank Sinatra, given that his “On The Town” is probably my favourite of the era’s movies. Studio Theatre and Café’s “Once in My Life: The Man, The Music, The Legend” is the perfect showcase of, as its title suggests a journey through the life and work of this American singer, actor, director and producer and, as such, is the perfect solution to my dilemma.
Whether you have passing familiarity or are a full-on fan, “Once in My Life: The Man, The Music, The Legend” has much to offer as it explores the timeline of a man who was loved and feared in equal measure. Almost like a live version of VH1s “Behind the Music”, the show is presented as part cabaret, part documentary as the live performance of Sinatra’s classic hit songs is integrated with a multimedia presentation of original interviews and historical news footage, which makes it both interesting and entertaining. This allows the audience to be taken through Sinatra’s childhood and early career with The Hoboken Four and Tommy Dorsey, as much as his later Rat Pack shenanigans at Vegas’ Sands Hotel. Indeed, the video segments that punctuate the show’s soundtrack provide both humour and insight, especially those of the improvised on-stage lounge act interaction with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jrn, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
As Sinatra himself says in one of the show’s clips, songs need to tell a story. And the songs selected to soundtrack his life story are proof of this. Whether it be finding fame as king of the bobby-soxers, achieving Academy Award winning movie stardom, McCarthyism suspicion of un-American activities or his multiple marriages and son’s abduction, there is a song that fits as perfect thematic accompaniment. All the favourites are there, from ‘Strangers in the Night’ and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ to ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and ‘Mac the Knife’. And Damien Lee does an excellent job in bringing them all to toe-tapping, flinger-clicking life with his strong vocal presence, culminating in a razzle dazzle ‘New York, New York’ and a mighty fine ‘My Way’ finale. His sound is smooth, whether in gentle song or soaring loudly. He is clearly singing straight from the heart and his passion is infectious. Unfortunately, his part-time back-up singers seem, by contrast to lack conviction, with vocal weakness that is sometimes distracting but largely just a signpost of Lee’s true talent.
As one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century, Frank Sinatra is an icon of the industry, worthy of tribute of this sort. “Once In My Life: The Man, The Music, The Legend” is the perfect vehicle for sharing his story from Hoboken Kid to Ol’ Blue Eyes. And it is the perfect Mother’s Day present for those with mums of that vintage wanting to share in a wonderful afternoon or evening of the songs and stories of the Chairman of the Board.
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