The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas devised, written and directed by Mitch Sebastian, with Stephen Triffitt, Mark Adams, Rashad Naylor, Monique Lund, Christine Sahely and Andrea Wingelaar. Presented by David & Ed Mirvish, Paul Walden and Derek Nicol for Flying Music at the Canon Theatre (244 Victoria). Runs to November 14, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday and Sunday 2 pm. $26-$75. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Unlike many nostalgic musical tribute shows, The Rat Pack doesn't chronicle a single performer's life and career.
It's essentially an imaginary concert with look- and/or sound-alikes playing Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. at the time they were performing at Las Vegas's Sands Hotel while filming Ocean's Eleven with actors Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. (Is it a coincidence that the remake sequel, Ocean's Twelve, is coming out soon? I think not.)
Devised and written by Mitch Sebastian , the show is an affectionate tribute to the three unique singers, but it's also an ironic evocation of a certain era in American life. The women are largely decoration, and the booze flows as readily as the racial and gay - oops, sorry, "fairy" - jokes.
That said, there's something simple and unpretentious about The Rat Pack that catapults it beyond mere Retro Night At Canadian Idol status.
For one thing, there's Stephen Triffitt 's jaw-dropping impersonation of Sinatra that alone is worth the price of admission. Although he stands a few inches taller than Ol' Blue Eyes, he's a dead ringer for the star (especially in stony profile) and actually captures the singer's inimitable voice, in both the uptempo numbers and those blue torch songs. (Triffitt performs the role until October 24, and then Chris Mann completes the run.)
Mark Adams mimics Dean Martin's vocal rhythms and slurred speech - more pronounced after each drink - without really resembling the guy, while Rashad Naylor fails to evoke anything about Davis Jr., the most unique member of the group. His version of What Kind Of Fool Am I becomes unintentionally amusing, sung so far off-key.
This isn't especially memorable theatre, but it succeeds as a survey of the rich American songbook. David W. Thompson and his orchestra perform the songs with gusto and verve, making you realize that behind every Sinatra or Martin hit there's not just a catchy melody but a pretty snazzy arrangement, too.