BWW Reviews: The Best Show in KC This Year - SANDY HACKETT'S RAT PACK SHOW
A chill went up and down my spine; did I step back in time when I entered through the door? Did I land in Las Vegas, at the Sands watching a show starring the Rat Pack? No, I landed at the hilarious and most entertaining show performed in Kansas City this theatrical season. Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show opened on Tuesday May 27 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Directed by Billy Karl the show marks the end of the 2013-2014 season for the Theater League of Kansas City.
The Hackett Miller Company produces Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show. Hackett Miller is Sandy Hackett, son of the late comedy icon Buddy Hackett and Lisa Dawn Miller, the daughter of the legendary songwriter Ron Miller. The husband and wife team of Hackett and Miller both perform in the national touring production.
The show opens in present day when God in his imminent wisdom decides to send the Rat Pack featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop back to earth for one more show in Kansas City. Before his death, Buddy Hackett recorded the voice of God. Take a muscle relaxer before the first song finishes, because the sidesplitting humor that is to follow will make your cheeks ache from the constant smile the show puts on the face of the audience.
Sandy Hackett magnificently portrays the late comedian Joey Bishop. His antics on and off stage keep the audience rolling in the aisles. Causing such uproarious laughter that some lines may be missed by the audience. Hackett as Bishop uses jokes reminiscent of the 1960's that prove they work through time. Hackett said in every city they play he scours the headlines for local news and topics that he can incorporate into the show, giving it a down-home feeling.
Danny Grewen plays Frank Sinatra the Chairman of the Board, Ole Blue Eyes. He takes charge of the stage and of the performers near him, just as Sinatra did those many years ago. He has a wonderful voice filling the room with powerful songs and medleys. He delivers the charisma that we expect of Sinatra or any entertainment icon of his stature.
Louie Velez stars as Sammy Davis, Jr. and has been portraying Sammy in various venues for 28 years. His depiction of Sammy is magical as each twitch of an eye (the one good one), every facial expression, and body movement deliver another marvelous memory of the famed entertainer. From the moment he steps on to the stage it is as if Sammy has been reincarnated into his body for the duration of the show. His strikingly realistic view of the entertainer goes right down to the costume, which includes a medallion that Velez personally received from Sammy Davis, Jr.'s mother.
Tom Wallek plays Dean Martin the last member of the famed Rat Pack visiting Kansas City. His actions are precise and bring back memories of Martin during his variety show jumping onto the grand piano and sliding off the other end, or having it crumble underneath him. Wallek portrays Martin as the great entertainer he was, and not just as a drunk as so many performers try to depict in their portrayals. His actions and his beautiful voice are spot on and if you played a cd of Martin and of Wallek, it would be difficult if not impossible to tell them apart.
The only woman to grace the Kauffman stage is Frank's one true love, played by Lisa Dawn Miller. She has a fantastic voice as she enters the stage passionately singing, "Wasn't I a Good Time?" a song that was written by her late father Ron Miller. Sinatra had three great loves, Nancy, Ava, and Barbara and the show makes no indication of which woman Miller portrays. The audience is left to their own conclusion. Hackett stated he heard Miller singing the song and immediately knew that he had to include it and her performance in Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show.