54 Salutes Frank Sinatra: Celebrating His Second Century

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54 Salutes Frank Sinatra:
Celebrating His Second Century

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, November 10, 2019

Reviewed by Ron Forman for Cabaret Scenes

Anaïs Reno

Scott Siegel’s 54 Salutes Frank Sinatra: Celebrating His Second Centuryat Feinstein’s/54 Below started as a one-time-only tribute to Sinatra; and later became a monthly show and now is performed twice a month. What is truly amazing is that the increased number of these shows, featuring new casts and new song lists for each edition, has not diminished the quality of these shows.

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The format is simple: pick about a dozen of the hundreds of songs associated with Sinatra, assign the songs appropriately to a cast of very talented singers and song-and-dance men, and have Siegel in his unique manner introduce each number with an interesting and often amusing anecdote. This edition was made extra special by a surprise guest appearance by stage and screen star Jonathon Pryce and for another opportunity to see and hear the remarkably precocious Anaïs Reno. Music director Ross Patterson’s arrangements matched each singer’s style and sound and his frequent piano solos always drew applause.
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Song-and-dance man Josh Israel opened the show, as Sinatra often did, by confidently belting “I’ve Got the World on a String” and later performed “Blue Skies,” both numbers featured spectacular tap dancing, despite the small stage to work on. Fifteen-year-old future star Anaïs Reno dazzled once again with her two numbers: “You and the Night and the Music” and a very effective “Embraceable You,” during which she sat next to Patterson at the piano. What makes Reno special is her confidence, her great facial expressions, and the fact that she does not echo any other performer. Each of her numbers are uniquely Anaïs.

Michael Winther continues to impress with his powerful performances. He covered “I Wanna Be Around” and was quite believable in remembering his father, and the way he lived, with “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die.” Brazilian vocalist Pedro Capetti reprised “The Girl from Ipanema” as it was performed on the 1967 album, Francis Albert Sinatra—Antonio Carlos Jobim, singing Sinatra’s part in English and Jobim’s in Portuguese. He was especially moving in his performance of “The House I Live In.” Adan Gallegos displayed a nice baritone in his debut at F/54 Below singing “I Concentrate on You” as a bossa nova. Brian Charles Rooney dynamically and kinetically performed “Luck Be a Lady,” holding the final note while the audience applauded. Willy Falk took a slow take on “The Song Is You,” hitting a very high note on the word “sing” as Sinatra did in his recording with Tommy Dorsey and he then finishing very softly. Surprise guest Pryce, who had performed with Falk in the original production of Miss Saigon, started “Fly Me to the Moon” softly and slowly and then started to really swing, all the while displaying his great acting ability. He finished the song with a very big I LOVE YOU.

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Rooney closed this very entertaining show with a crowd-pleasing “Theme from New York, New York,” ending the show by holding the note on the final “York.”

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.