'Rat Pack Show' swings away the wintertime blues
"Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show" is performing this weekend at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend as a Broadway Theatre League production. (Photo provided)
Did Tony Basile look like Dean Martin? Did Dezmond Meeks move like Sammy Davis Jr.? How about Sandy Hackett? Did the jokes flow out of his mouth like water? And, finally, there’s David DeCosta as Frank Sinatra — the Chairman of the Board.
Did DeCosta croon like Frank, or hold his glass like the Chairman?
Of course, some mannerisms and moves are easier to reproduce than others, and that isn’t really the point of the “Rat Pack Show.”
The point of the show, created by Hackett and presented Friday and Saturday by Broadway Theatre League at the Morris Performing Arts Center, is to capture the way in which the friendship of these four legends turned a casino in Las Vegas into the hottest spot on the Strip.
So the show’s stated purpose raises the level of difficulty for the four performers.
Hackett, Basile, Meeks and DeCosta have to do more than sing the old songs and tell some jokes. They have to re-create the old magic.
The four performers give the show the feel of four old friends who worked very hard at play.
The show features many of the routines that Frank, Dino, Sammy and Joey Bishop did in the old days at the Sands. Meeks and Basile did the Lone Ranger and Tonto routine. This is the kind of routine that could have been offensive back in the day. It wasn’t because the four men were such good friends that such antics never seemed condescending.
The “Rat Pack Show” is at its best when the four performers are on stage together pulling gags, singing in four-part harmony and giving the audience a feel of what it must have been like to be in Las Vegas in the early 1960s.
Of course, that is not the premise of the show. The show’s story line has the four men returning to Earth to do one more show in present-day America.
That means public figures and news stories such as the Penn State scandal get a mention.
Some in the audience gasped at the mention of Jerry Sandusky’s name, but Hackett — understanding that football is pretty big in South Bend — quipped that he knew the audience would get that joke.
The show features several noteworthy individual moments. Hackett got the crowd laughing with his standup comedy routine in which he bantered with the audience and managed to turn a persistent hum from the sound system — a bug that clearly annoyed him — into a fodder for his routine.
Basile enticed the crowd to sing along during his performances of “That’s Amore.”
Meeks and DeCosta gave stellar renditions of “What Kind of Fool am I” and “For Once in My Life.”
The show also includes a duet of an original ballad, “Wasn’t I a Good Time,” with DeCosta joining Lisa Dawn Miller, who portrayed Ava Gardner.
Fans heard most of the songs that they wanted to hear. If you suspended disbelief enough, you might have thought you were in Vegas at the Sands.
That’s until the show ended, and you realized you were in South Bend in the snow.
Staff writer Howard Dukes: