The Real Sinatra
NJPAC, Newark, NJ, November 9, 2015
Reviewed by Ron Forman for Cabaret Scenes
As the Sinatra centenary approaches, there have been countless tributes. Will Friedwald’s The Real Sinatra, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center took a unique look at the Sinatra songbook by focusing on songs specifically written for Ol’ Blue Eyes. A trio of today’s top vocalists—Kevin Mahogany, Sue Raney and Tom Wopat—performed selections written as title songs for Sinatra’s albums, those he sang in movies or as single recordings.
After the prelude of “Come Dance with Me,” jazz vocalist Mahogany performed three numbers beginning, appropriately with “Come Fly with Me,” “Nancy (with the Laughing Face)” and a soulful “That’s Life.” Raney then showed why she is still at the very top of today’s jazz vocalists with a beautiful, very slow “All the Way,” followed by an especially moving “There Used to Be a Ballpark.” Wopat then performed two Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen songs written for films: “(Love Is) The Tender Trap” and the Oscar-winning “Call Me Irresponsible.” Pianist Ehud Asherie played “The Christmas Waltz,” also by Cahn and Van Heusen, written when Sinatra requested a new Christmas song. Mahogany returned for “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)” and “I’m a Fool To Want You” (Sinatra/Jack Wolf/Joel Herron). The amazingly talented Bria Skonberg did one of Sinatra’s signature saloon songs, “Empty Tables,” playing trumpet as well. Raney came back for “Nice ‘n’ Easy” and an excruciatingly slow “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” Bassist-singer Nicki Parott did a nice up-tempo vocal on the song whose title is written on Sinatra’s tombstone, “The Best Is Yet to Come,” before joining musical director Ken Peplowski on what was ironically Sinatra’s best selling single, “Somethin’ Stupid.” Wopat closed with “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and a song not written for or performed by Sinatra in a movie, but one he eventually owned: “Luck Be a Lady.”