HUDSON — The Show Palace Dinner Theatre brings to stage the songs of what many have called "the top entertainer of the 20th century" in My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, playing Saturday through Aug. 14.
Unlike all too many other Sinatra tributes, My Way doesn't try to replicate the sound of Sinatra, but instead presents the sounds of Sinatra, with two men and two women singing and sometimes dancing to more than 50 songs made famous by Ol' Blue Eyes.
They range from the less familiar Something Wonderful Happens in Summer to the instantly recognizable New York, New York, and, of course, the title song, Sinatra's anthem, the ever-so-slightly arrogant My Way.
Accompanying singers Michael Mathews (Show Palace debut), Jessica Mathews (Anna in The King and I), Matty Colonna (Patrick in The Andrews Brothers) and Molly Ross (Sandy in Grease) is music director William Coleman's three-piece combo: bassist Kirk Reyes, drummer Elwood Bond and Coleman himself on piano.
Sinatra would have been 101 years old in December, but he died in May 1998 at the age of 72 — much too soon for his legions of fans. Long before the Beatles, there was "Sinatramania," with thousands of screaming, fainting, teenage female fans.
He is said to have recorded more than 1,300 songs, but the show features only 54, some in medleys, others in full verse. It's not a book show in the traditional sense, but writers David Grapes and Todd Olson did include anecdotes about Sinatra's life as well as some of Sinatra's most famous quips and remarks.
It's likely that most audience members would be able to sing along with most (but please, please don't) — Strangers in the Night, I've Got You Under My Skin, Fly Me to the Moon, plus several medleys on love's highs and lows, travel and seasons, more specifically the seasons of life. He sold more than 150 million records worldwide after releasing his first album in 1946. But his career stalled when rock 'n' roll exploded onto the scene in the 1950s. That's when he went to Las Vegas and became part of the Rat Pack that included Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr.
But his career took off again, thanks to a stunning performance in the war movie From Here to Eternity, which won him an Academy Award as best supporting actor. He signed with Capitol Records and in 1955 released In the Wee Small Hours, Come Fly with Me and a string of other bestselling albums. He did all of this while keeping up gigs in Vegas and making critically acclaimed movies like The Manchurian Candidate and The Man with the Golden Arm, as well as musicals like On the Town, Guys and Dolls, High Society and Pal Joey. He even played in detective movies (Tony Rome) and had several solo television specials and series. He won 11 Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sinatra also had many famous friendships and romances. He was pals with President John F. Kennedy (though they had a falling out in later years) and wed to Hollywood beauty Ava Gardner and ingenue Mia Farrow. His final marriage, to showgirl/model Barbara Marx (former wife of Zeppo Marx) in 1976, lasted until his death. Many women in Hollywood claimed to have had affairs with him. Betty White has a running joke about her trysts with him on the television show Hot in Cleveland.
Michael Matthews may be making his Show Palace acting and directing debut, but theater-goers around the Tampa Bay area are familiar both with his performances and his directorial style. He's a protege of Broadway's Peter Palmer (Li'l Abner) and is frequently seen performing tributes to the late Bobby Darin, one of the few recognized by the Darin estate, the official Bobby Darin Fan Club and BroadwayWorld.com. He was the founder of the Salerno Theatre Co. and Salerno Entertainment, which have brought shows to the North Suncoast in years past. He has directed scores of musicals, including Fiddler on the Roof, Jekyll & Hyde, Sweeney Todd, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, as well as revues of the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Judy Garland and Dean Martin.
My Way is definitely a singing show, but there is some dancing, choreographed by Darla Melendez.