THEATER REVIEW: ‘My Way’ is “Sultry” and “charismatic”
Step into an era of glamour, sultry romance and electrifying glances from across the room. Cinnabar Theater has been transformed into an upscale night club, with rich textured walls blending into sapphire velvet surrounding a trio of piano, bass and drums. Arranged in cabaret style with tables - for a Jack on the Rocks or glass of wine to enjoy during the performance - the mood-lit intimacy is ideal for a memorable date to ring in the New Year.
“My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” was created by David Grapes and Todd Olson to capture his essence through song, walking a fine line between concert piece and theater. Director Jennifer King, Professor of Theater at Napa Valley College, joined the production after initial concept design and casting, which placed her in a difficult position of incorporating her vision without compromising the timeline. Her dream of a glittering Las Vegas lounge and the original grunge urban club with brick accents was balanced into a luxurious, simple set from Wayne Hovey and evening attire of dinner jackets and shimmering gowns by Ellen Howes.
Working with Olson’s limited book, King chose to gather the actors in a living room to workshop the subtext underneath their characters, crafting subtle interactions and relationships that become an unspoken play-within-a-play that is fascinating to watch. Lyrics are conversations between the singers, who pause to toss out intriguing insights into Sinatra’s exploits and musical career.
King strives for an immersive, textured piece that delves into the feelings evoked by Sinatra’s artistry, rather than a linear plot. Covering over fifty songs throughout the evening, they are arranged into concept medleys, such as survivors, mature love affairs and the seasons. A grouping of city favorites, including “I Love Paris” and “L.A. is My Lady” is interrupted by an earnest tribute to “Chicago” by Man #2 (Mark Robinson), a native of the Windy City. The trio, led by Cesar Cancino, maintains the flow and pacing, offering sizzling jazz and haunting ballad accompaniment. Lighting design by Peter Q. Parish creates lazy summer afternoons or an eerie moonlit rendezvous through projections and color.
The cast was chosen for Sinatra’s particular sound and rakish charm, drawn from Marin and San Francisco cabaret and opera singers. Easy-going Rocky Blumhagen (Man #1) is a natural fit for the relaxed, entertaining tone. Carolyn Bacon (Woman #2) captures the flirty, light-hearted songs, like “The Best Is Yet To Come” while Désirée Goyette (Woman #1) slides into languid, dreamy serenades. Mark Robinson (Man #2) is riveting in his ability to turn songs into comedy with well-timed, expressive reactions. “Should !?” becomes a genuine question of revealing his affection for Woman #2. The ensemble plays off each other with glorious harmony and a moving rendition of “It Was a Very Good Year” passing verses back and forth with elegant transitions, moving into a toe-tapping gospel style chorus for “That’s Life.”
Infused with poetic passion, Cinnabar’s production is, as Sinatra would say, “the good life, full of fun.”
Celebrate the New Year with his beautiful, hopeful music or introduce a new generation to Frank Sinatra with “My Way” through Jan. 14.