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, June 4, 2022

Reviewed by Ron Forman

The Frank Sinatra songbook contains 209 Billboard-charted hit singles and 55 charted albums, so there is no end in sight for Scott Siegel’s twice-monthly series 54 Salutes Frank Sinatra: Celebrating His Second Century. The format for this very successful series is simple. Siegel puts together a cast of excellent cabaret and Broadway vocalists and, in this show he mixed in an amazing tap dancer, and matched them appropriately to songs associated with Sinatra. Siegel introduced each number with an amusing anecdote or an interesting fact about the song. Music director John Fischer adjusted his work on piano to each singer’s style and sound, and his solos always brought applause from the audience.

Pete Caldera opened the 52nd edition of the series with a softly swinging “Summer Wind” enhanced by a nice piano solo by Fischer. Ryan Knowles followed by belting a very dynamic “Birth of the Blues.” Anaïs Reno performed two songs: a very soft and slow “I’ll Remember April” and later “Autumn Leaves.” Here she started hauntingly slowly in the original French and then speeding up to perform the second half of the song in English. Michael Winther’s first number was a very romantic “My Romance,” which included the verse. He changed his mood and his voice for his second number, a very powerful, very believable “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die.” Stella Katherine Cole performed a very powerful “Come Rain or Come Shine.”

Sinatra’s recording of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is my all-time favorite recording, so I normally cringe when anyone else attempts to cover it. However, Cole did it her way in a very delightful manner. Willie Demyan’s facial expressions enhanced his ultra-dramatic “I’m a Fool to Want You,” which included a very big finish. He would return, next to closing, holding a drink in his hand for a dramatic performance of “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” Luke Hawkins dazzled the crowd with his super-fast tap dancing after singing the first few bars of “Love and Marriage.
” The highlight of the show was the duet by the very kinetic Knowles and Hawkins, who sang and tap-danced across the stage as they performed “Me and My Shadow” just as Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.
recorded it. Hawkins’ great looks, noticeable style of dress, movement across the stage, and very powerful voice made it impossible to take your eyes off of him. He closed the show with “That’s Life,” having the audience join in each time the phrase “That’s Life,” came up in the song.

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.