By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle
The Ivoryton Playhouse gets Spring underway with its first production of the 2017 season, MY WAY: A musical tribute to Frank Sinatra. The legendary theater in picturesque Ivoryton Connecticut presents this revue with a cast of four Actor’s Equity Association performers. They sing and dance their way through ten medleys, for a total of fifty Sinatra favorites, in two acts.
The show – a work-in-progress – is co-directed and choreographed by the husband and wife team Rick Faugno and Joyce Chittick. Playhouse audiences will remember their great singing and superb dancing in the 2014 production of Fingers & Toes. Each of their exciting tap routines and memorable musical numbers were greeted with enthusiastic cheers and applause by the audience, including us. (Joyce is currently working on the hit Broadway musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, but is doing double duty collaborating with her husband to help direct and choreograph this tribute show).
Ivoryton’s Managing/Artistic Director, Jacqueline Hubbard, wanted something fresh, apart from the many Rat Pack book shows. Enter Todd Olson and David Grapes to continue developing their My Way. It’s still a work in progress and at least three of the ten medleys could be eliminated– namely Summer, Young Love, and the Loser’s songs – for better pace and 90 minutes of all singing and dancing with no intermission. Easily cut could be the all-too-tired rat-pack-banter that isn’t possible without doing imitations of Sinatra and his show-stopping partners: Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.
But when it comes to delivering the songs and lively dancing that serves to accompany many of the familiar tunes, the show sparkles. Leading the cast is Rick Faugno, who played Frankie Valli in the Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys for 3 and ½ years. His own interpretation of “New York, New York” in this show elicits rafter-shaking cheers. He did Sinatra proud.
Joining Rick in this production are Lauren Gire, Josh Powell and Vanessa Sonon. Ms. Sonon’s big dance number with Rick Faugno in the first act is reason enough to buy a ticket! The audience went wild with applause.
When the singers join in harmony, the music is pure honey. An especially fun duet is Ms. Gire and Mr. Faugno doing “Something’ Stupid.” There is a little bit of Dean Martin at play with Mr. Powell’s “Nice N’ Easy.” And wackiness prevails in “South of the Border-Down Mexico Way.”
The terrific trio of musicians on stage throughout keep the flow of songs running smoothly. With Musical Director Andy Hudson on piano, Matt McCauley on bass and Gary Ribchinsky on drums, these guys make each number sound like a full orchestra is at play.
This is a delightful night out for theater-lovers. Getting the spring started with live theater at the Ivoryton Playhouse is always a social treat. And spending an evening or afternoon listening to those familiar Sinatra melodies is an easy trip down memory lane. You will go out humming “New York, New York.”
My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra
runs through April 9th, 2017. Performances: Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.
Tickets are $50 for adults; $45 for seniors; $22 for students and $17 for children. Call the box office at 860-767-7318 or buy at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. (Group rates are available by calling the box office.) And while you’re online check out all the other great shows coming up this year at The Ivoryton Playhouse. The theater is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton, CT