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Christmas With The Rat Pack at the Theatre Royal Haymarket – Review

THE RAT PACK - LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS - Garrett Phillips (Frank Sinatra), David Hayes (Sammy Davis Jr), Nigel Casey (Dean Martin) - Photo Betty Zapata
THE RAT PACK – LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS – Garrett Phillips (Frank Sinatra), David Hayes (Sammy Davis Jr), Nigel Casey (Dean Martin) – Photo Betty Zapata

Here we go again: a West End run of Christmas With The Rat Pack. It’s a testament to the success of the show that its producers continue to feel there is sufficient demand for another revival. Just don’t come expecting to learn anything more about the members of The Rat Pack than that they were great performers, elegant and charming. If it’s biographical details you’re after, look elsewhere – this is pure entertainment, a slick production with hit after hit after hit in gig format.

There’s a whole generation who never saw The Rat Pack Live, including this reviewer. Speaking to one or two fellow theatregoers who recall them in their heyday, it was a revelation to me that The Rat Pack were a five-strong outfit – missing from the line up for this production are Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Frank Sinatra (Garrett Phillips), Sammy Davis, Jr (David Hayes) and Dean Martin (Nigel Casey) are instead supported by a trio of sisters (played by Amelia Adams-Pearce, Rebecca Parker and Joanna Walters).

While some lyrics have been altered, sometimes to make them sound like banter between the performers, the show captures the spirit of the era well, and furnishes audiences with an idea of what it would have been like to see a Rat Pack performance in Las Vegas several decades ago. There’s a feeling, however, that there was a much stronger element of spontaneity and surprise in the actual Rat Pack concerts than this almost too slick and smooth production, distinctly carefully choreographed.

Some of the punchlines in the spoken dialogue fell flat, even with this unassuming audience. Perhaps it’s because what may have been amusing back in the day doesn’t quite elicit the same sort of response it does now, and in attempting to create an authentic feel to the show, it also made the production itself seem a tad dated. Even Casey’s Dean Martin suggested so, inviting the audience back to see “a new show” in the New Year, when the anomaly of Ol’ Blue Eyes not singing ‘My Way’ will be corrected. But at least the distinctly Sixties’ style conversations are easy on the ears, harkening back to a time when emotions and feelings were expressed with rich vocabulary, a world away from the effing and blinding of the gigs of today.

The ‘Christmas Medley’, whilst suitably seasonal, rattled through so many tunes so quickly it brought to mind Motown The Musical, shoehorning in as many numbers as possible into a short timeframe.

Fewer full-length numbers would have worked better. The orchestra, or rather big band, led by Matthew Freeman, play flawlessly throughout, and the cast are in fine singing form. Phillips’ Sinatra even manages to get the measured and stilted (at least by today’s standards, anyway) delivery of his spoken lines spot on. Elsewhere, he does what I used to call ‘infinite vowel stretching’ (before a theatre producer told me the technical term is ‘holding’) seemingly effortlessly.

The choreography, frankly, could have been a little tighter in places. But as a seasonal show, it’s certainly different enough from the pantomimes and family shows to set itself apart as a production that has something unique to offer. A pleasant and enjoyable evening.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Christmas with the Rat Pack is still the coolest party in town so beat the winter blues with Frank, Sammy and Dean.
Drift back in time to the glamorous, glitzy nights of Vegas in the company of three of the world’s most popular entertainers and experience Frank, Sammy and Dean performing at the famous Sands hotel with the fabulous Burrelli Sisters and The Rat Pack Big Band.

Hit follows hit including pack favourites The Lady is a Tramp, Mr Bojangles, That’s Amore, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, What Kind of fool Am I, Volare and seasonal classics including: Baby it’s Cold Outside, Let it Snow, White Christmas, Winter Wonderland & Auld Lang Syne.

If you wish you’d swung with the hardest partying pack in town, book now for the perfect Christmas night out for all the family.

Christmas With The Rat Pack
Theatre Royal Haymarket
Booking Until: 6th Jan 2018

The Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas
Theatre Royal Haymarket
Booking from 9th January to 3rd Feb 2018

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