Its easy to understand why All Sinatra has been the most popular show ever at Quality Hill Playhouse.
Although Im not a big Sinatra fan he was a little before my time I appreciate his contribution to American music. As J. Kent Barnhart, executive director of the Playhouse, said at the Tuesday performance, When he made a song a hit, it became part of the American songbook. Thats without ever writing a single song.
The Quality Hill season consists entirely of shows that became the companys biggest hits in previous years. Barnhart directs All Sinatra, which features vocalists Melinda MacDonald and Jon Daugharthy, with Brian Wilson on bass and Ken Remmert on drums. All are Playhouse veterans; MacDonald, in fact, has been in each of the four productions of All Sinatra.
All Sinatra includes more than 50 songs associated with Ol Blue Eyes. In a change of pace, Barnhart hands emcee duties to from MacDonald and Daugharthy, who offer up stories about Sinatras life and career with Barnhart occasionally chiming in. They explain they that the show is not meant to to imitate or dish the dirt but to celebrate the legendary singer.
MacDonald and Daugharthy harmonize well together on the frequent duets, such as the flirty The Tender Trap, featuring some corny antics designed to elicit chuckles from the audience. After a series of ballads, Barnhart livens up the party with a spirited rendition of Luck Be a Lady.
Drummer Remmert, a talented comic actor, contributes a funny bit on Love and Marriage.
The first act ends on an energetic note with solos by Remmert and bassist Wilson on Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.
Act 2 opens with Barnhart, MacDonald and Daugharthy teaming up The Lady Is a Tramp. MacDonald belts out the show-stopping My Kind of Town, but my favorite is her sultry Blues in the Night, backed by Wilson on bass. When Barnhart performs One for My Baby one of the loneliest-sounding songs in the world you feel like youve walked into a smoky bar in Manhattan just before closing time.
After a series of ballads, Barnhart does something rare: He invites the audience to sing along on High Hopes, saying, You know you want to.
Daugharthy, for the most part, has an easy, relaxed style, and does a great job on every song. But he goes to town on Mack the Knife, starting quietly and building to a rousing finish. It is followed by the poignant Put Your Dreams Away, with the announcement of Sinatras death on May 14, 1998.
The last two songs, Young at Heart and You Make Me Feel So Young, ends the evening on a happier note. Tuesday nights crowd gave the show a standing ovation.
The instrumental medley that opens the show -- performed by Barnhart at the piano backed by Wilson and Remmert -- wraps up with Sinatras signature tune, My Way. Any viewers waiting to hear it sung may be disappointed, but its a conscious choice. Besides, maybe nobody else should ever sing a song so tied up with the kid from Hobokens persona.
All Sinatra has already proven so popular that the run has been extended through March 9. Mark Lowry takes over on drums Feb. 26 through March 9 and Gerald Spaits steps in bass March 5 through March 9.