The three-man Central Florida Rat Pack started with an idea by Brooklyn-born Steve Roman, the son of a mom from Puerto Rico and a dad from Italy.
Roman, like the man he would eventually come to portray in the trio, Sammy Davis Jr., is multitalented, not only singing, but also dancing and playing musical instruments. He started out in a Merengue band and went to a salsa band. After moving to Florida in 2002, he became determined to form his own version of the famed Rat Pack, which was headed by Frank Sinatra.
It was five years later that he met another Brooklyn lad, Armando Diaz, who had seen a Rat Pack tribute group in Las Vegas and wanted to be a part of one himself — never mind that he had very little singing experience at the time
Roman persuaded Diaz to impersonate Sinatra, but the group didn't come together until Universal Studios Florida performer Felix J. Deneau Jr. — a native of Minnesota — came on board as Dean Martin.
Interestingly, Deneau had actually performed on stage with Martin and, after impersonating him, earned Martin's praise. "That's pretty damn good, kid," Martin told him after one show at the MGM Grand.
Roman, Deneau and Diaz named themselves the Central Florida Rat Pack and have been performing across the state and, recently, in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for the past four years.
They'll be headliners at the Aripeka Elks Lodge dinner show Saturday.
"Just close your eyes, and you will feel that the wonderful group that we adored in years gone by is here, bringing back many memories to us with their wonderful music and song," said Mary Ann Steffes, the lodge's publicity chairwoman.
In it, Deneau's Martin is often introduced "straight from the bar," entering with the ever-present Dino drink in hand, slightly slurred speech pattern and singing his hits from the late 1950s, That's Amore and Volare.
Although Roman's body build is far from the slightly-built Davis', his gestures, voice timbre and moves recall the famous performer with such songs as I've Gotta Be Me, The Candy Man and Mr. Bojangles.
With Diaz, Sinatra is evoked with such numbers as Come Fly With Me, Fly Me to the Moon and the Chairman of the Board's signature song, My Way.
In between songs, the trio re-create the famous Rat Pack patter, complete with gentle digs at each other and at the audience.
Future dinner shows at the Aripeka Elks Lodge are the six-person singing and dancing group Let's Hang On (Dec. 12); singer Robin Roth (Jan. 9); Neil Diamond impersonator Jay White (Feb. 20); and the family group the Marlins (March 13).