My Way

Dinner theater’s ‘My Way’ keeps Sinatra style swinging

By Warren Gerds

Musical review

“My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra”: 6-7 p.m. dinner served, 8 p.m. curtain through Aug. 28 (closed Mondays and July 4) at Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Mr. G’s Ballroom, two miles south of Jacksonport. $45.95. (920) 823-2899.

3 stars
(out of four)

JACKSONPORT — The best number in “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” comes 53 songs into the 57-song show.

“It was a Very Good Year” finds the Sinatra persona in the autumn of his life, looking back on himself at 17, 21 and 35.

By the time this song arrives in the Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre show, audiences have a sense of the range of the Sinatra style and know what the performers can and cannot do.

In “It was a Very Good Year,” the four singers take turns singing a chapter in the life. The reflections are melancholy yet warm.

“My Way” overall is a pleasing excursion. In 11 medleys and other songs, the show covers 50-plus years of the Sinatra career, styles and songbook.

The song list alone is likable. It includes “High Hopes,” “Chicago, Chicago,” “I Only have Eyes for You,” “The Tender Trap,” “Love and Marriage,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “My Way.”

The four singers and three band members (mostly Midwesterners) are young, primarily in their 20s.

Kyla Belich and Ann Teisher sing colorfully and add feminine touches.

Martin McNamee and Clayton Jensen offer different takes on the man himself. McNamee, who looks like he stepped out of the pages of Esquire magazine, sings the jaunty songs, plus the all-out “That’s Life” near the end. Jensen’s voice has the advantage of being close to Sinatra’s — somewhat broad, a bit brassy, a bit nasal.

When the four sing together, results are mixed. Closing the first half Wednesday night, “All the Way” was poorly balanced — either though the singing or the sound system. Sourness visited other times, too.

On the other hand, “New York, New York” shows teamwork in sound, snappy moves and look.

Director and choreographer James Zimmerman keeps the performers flowing from scene to scene on the stage that’s reminiscent of a lounge/showroom.

The “Moon Medley” has an added touch as a New York cityscape shows on three screens.

Having a live band is a plus. Drummer Bruce Newbern, pianist David Beck and bassist Rachel Meagher not only “dress” the show, they play some old favorites for 15 minutes leading up to it.

Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson and premiered in 2000 at Tennessee Repertory Theatre, “My Way” will run through summer for the theater’s first offering of its fifth year.

Dining includes a choice of four entrees, served through the adjoining restaurant (a plus).

©2004 Green Bay Press-Gazette

Sinatra tribute leaves audience humming

By: Sam Perlman

Frank Sinatra was a towering cultural figure in 20th century America, and this summer Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre celebrates the life and times of Sinatra in the first of two productions scheduled for it's fifth anniversary season.

"My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra" features 50 songs from throughout Sinatra's career, songs both familiar and less so from the vast catalog of more than 1,300 tunes Sinatra sang during his decades-long career.

The format of the show is a series of medleys, interspersed with brief anecdotes and quotes from the life and times of Frank Sinatra. The songs are grouped into thematic medley, including a "Broadway Medley" consisting of songs from landmark musical theater; and the "Cities Medley," which includes "I Love Paris," "L.A. Is My Lady" and the inevitable "New York, New York" and "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)."

The second act opens with the terrific "Losers Medley." which includes "Drinkin' Again" and "One for My Baby." The medleys refelct the innovation of the "concept album"that Sinatra pioneered in the early 1960s - songs chosen thematically, instead of just randomly selected for a recording. The show closes as most Sinatra shows closed in the 1970s and beyond, with Sinatra's late life anthem, "My Way," written by Paul Anka.

The cast of two women and two men who cover all this musical territory in just over 90 minutes consists of Kyla A. Belich, Clayton Jensen, Marty McNamee and Ann Teisher. Teisher showcases the strongest voice among the four, and McNamee demonstrates a breezy effortlessness in his dance steps, both solo and swinging his female dance partners around the floor. A jazzy trio of David Bech on piano, Rachel Meagher on upright bass and Sturgeon Bay drummer Bruce Newbern ably backs the cast.

The slightly rushed tempo of the show detracts a bit from the power and feeling of the songs. The desire toward speed on the part of the production is understandable, as there is a great deal of material to cover in a short amount of time. However, what made Sinatra such a memorable singer was the way in which he meticulously crated each phrase of a song. The material might be better served by gently slowing down the pace.

"My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra" is a celebration not only of Sinatra's life, but also of the Great American Songbook. If you're a fan - and really, who isn't? - the production is a pleasurable way to immerse yourself in the music and legacy of Frank Sinatra for an evening. Even the most casual "Frankophile" will leave the theater humming his or her favorite Sinatra tune.

©2004 Door County Advocate

Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre
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