Rat Pack – Live From Las Vegas @ Adelphi Theatre, London

cast list
Stephen Rashbrook, Gils Terera, Mark Adams, Charlie Bull, Grace Holdstock, Lizzii Hills

directed by
Mitch Sebastian
Starting life at the Beck Theatre, Hayes, in 2000, The Rat Pack – Live From Las Vegas has since appeared at several West End venues and gone on to tour the world.

And watching it on its return to London, this time to the Adelphi Theatre, it is easy to account for its success.

An evening in the Copa Room in Las Vegass Sands Hotel in the 1960s, with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr singing, joking, trading insults and drinking, is perfect fare for reproducing live on a stage.
In promising nothing more (and nothing less) than an evening packed with classic songs, slick performances, and a good dose of mischief, the show delivers handsomely on what it pledges, and doesnt try to do anything it cant.

Not that conceptually it is without its problems. No-one could ever truly reproduce the performances of Sinatra, Martin and Davis Jr, and it can be a mistake to try. The greatest singers put themselves into their songs, and so something is inevitably lost when we remove ourselves one step and watch Stephen Rashbrook imitating how Sinatra used to put himself into them.

Nevertheless, the singers generally strike a good balance between impersonating the originals and putting on performances in their own right. Rashbrooks voice may be more abrasive than Sinatras, but it possesses its own smooth quality. His phrasing may be slightly less accomplished and his tilts of the head rather forced, but he still delivers strong performances of Luck be a Lady, the melancholic Angel Eyes and the iconic My Way. A greater problem is that in real life Sinatra clearly dominated the others, whereas Rashbrook feels comparatively weak. Exuding Sinatras unique brand of charisma may be an impossible task, but the banter in which Sammy and Dean reveal their subservience to Frank doesnt ring true as a result.

As Dean Martin, Mark Adams initially comes across as too buffoonish, reproducing Martins drunken antics whilst lacking the originals aura, and he is overshadowed by his backing singers in Thats Amore . Nevertheless, he grows in strength over the evening and by the second half his goofing hits the mark, and his light, but vibrant, voice wins through.

But it is Gilz Tereras Sammy Davis Jr that steals the show. Whether he is dancing frenetically to This is My Moment, languishing over What Kind Of Fool Am I or delivering the slickest patter of the evening following his first entrance, he never ceases to be captivating. Indeed, it is the extent of Tereras own talent that makes the portrayal of his character feel the most effortless of the three.

Overall, however, what imperfections there may be in the individual performances are transcended by the slickness of the production as a whole. Charlie Bull, Grace Holdstock and Lizzii Hills provide stupendous support as the Burelli Sisters, whilst the Rat Pack Big Band, directed by Matthew Freeman, is one smart outfit, its instrumental solo in Ive Got You Under My Skin sounding as good as any Ive heard on an original Sinatra recording.

The Rat Pack hardly makes for intellectually challenging theatre, but when it comes to putting on good old-fashioned quality entertainment it could hardly be bettered. The attention to detail is exquisite (dance routines are worked around the microphone leads because cordless instruments hadnt been invented then), and the overall effect is only slightly marred by the fact that, by virtue of such a fine performance, the evening is dominated by Sammy Davis Jr and not Ol Blue Eyes himself.

The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas runs at the Adelphi Theatre until 23 November 2009, before Christmas With The Rat Pack, featuring festive classics, takes over until 2 January 2010. Casts may vary during both shows.

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