Friday, July 27, 2012

'Our Sinatra' at 10 years old is still a classic

Tony DeSare, Laurie Wells and Adam James perform in "Our Sinatra." Photo contributed

Ten years ago, Tony DeSare, Adam James and Laurie Wells took the stage in the first production of the new Mason Street Warehouse. The show was “Our Sinatra,” and the dressing rooms, well, “I remember by the smell,” DeSare joked Thursday night to the pre-opening night crowd.

A lot has changed.

The trailers used for costume changes are gone. Mason Street Warehouse has merged with the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. The facility has matured into the premier lakeshore arts venue and the three performers have returned with a new take on the Old Blue Eyes favorite.

The powerful singing and piano performance brought a cascade of applause and the crowd to its feet for a stellar show that will make you laugh, smile and sing along even if you’re not fan of Frank Sinatra.

The show runs at the arts center, 400 Culver St., through Aug. 12. It opens to the public tonight.

Tickets are available at (269) 857-2399 or

“It’s not the same show that is was 10 years ago,” said Kurt Stamm, SCA artistic director and founder of Mason Street Warehouse. Five new songs have been added while some have been removed.

This show ran in New York for four years, spawned three national tours and has played in more than 30 regional markets. Stamm has directed them all.

“It’s a show that means a lot to me,” he said.

That nurturing and care show on the Saugatuck stage.

The performance — about 2 hours with an intermission — is not a biography, though the cast peppers facts and anecdotes about Sinatra throughout the show. It’s a celebration of some of the greatest American music ever written and performed.

Wells has a powerful voice that surrounds the theater and a presence in 1940s and 1950s gowns that brightens the simple stage. She stars in the Broadway hit “Mamma Mia!”

James blows away the crowd with “Ol’ Man River,” a song Sinatra performed in the 1946 film “Till the Clouds Roll By.” You just have to hear it to believe it! He has a CD out and was chosen by Tina Sinatra to portray her father in “Sinatra Remembered.”

DeSare is a master of the piano that bursts out in “The Birth of the Blues.”  He performed at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops and opens for comedian Don Rickles.

The show moves quickly and doesn’t get wrapped up in the controversial aspects of Sinatra’s life — the performers do make a few jokes about his mob reputation and even laugh at his daughter’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” 1966 hit. The “Mother of Medleys” is a great broadbrush rush through Sinatra’s catalog.

Of course, no show is complete without a confetti-dropping version of “New York, New York.”

Many people don’t even realize they know songs made famous by Sinatra, such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”  or “Something Stupid.”

If you’re not a Sinatra fan, don’t worry. If all you know about the American icon is the Phil Hartman skits from “Saturday Night Live” or the “Family Guy” takeoffs with Frank Sinatra Jr., that’s OK.

DeSare, James and Wells are fantastic performers who take the show from a simple tribute collection of songs to a unique showcase of their talents that are an honor to Sinatra.

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