“The Rat Pack – Live at the Sands” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ October 16, 2008


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Many saw Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. during their heydays on television, in films, and, occasionally, in person. Each was unique, each had a dynamic personality, and all knew how to entertain. But put them together in a lethargically produced re-creation of their now infamous early ‘60s Las Vegas appearance during the filming of the original “Oceans 11” and the result, “The Rat Pack – Live at the Sands,” is dreadful. It plays at ASU Gammage through Sunday, October 19.

The problems are many, the pluses are non-existent. The show dredges up these once dynamic performers’ old routines and ancient song hits that today are better remembered than reconstructed. Most of the jokes are in bad taste considering modern sensibilities. Add three bad imitators who look little like the men they portray and sound only faintly like these performers in their prime. A chorus of attractive women is used as sexist decoration, and the action plays on a tacky set that mirrors none of Las Vegas’ elaborate production values. There are no writing credits because no respectable playwright would allow this boring lounge show regeneration near a stage.

The show is cheesy filler in a season that otherwise features Broadway’s best. “The Rat Pack” would be laughed off any New York stage. That this travesty began with a successful London engagement suggests that American tourists attended to bathe in the nostalgia.

This flat and listless show does nothing to tribute these outstanding entertainers, and Mitch Sebastain’s inept staging is embarrassing.

Best in the awful cast is Stephen Triffitt’s Sinatra because he appears to be the age of the entertainer during the show’s ‘60s time period. He looks a tad like Old Blue Eyes but Triffit certainly doesn’t croon with the same passion that turned Sinatra into a star. David Hayes is too big to portray the lithe and impish Davis with any believability and his singing lacks the emotional depth Davis brought to his nightclub act. Phil Barley’s Martin is too young. His drunken antics and cigarette smoking enthusiasm make his moments in the spotlight unacceptable today. These performers’ tired old jokes simply don’t work today.

A 15-piece orchestra tries, without success, to give these performers’ many old song hits some punch but most fall flat as the show drags on and on.

Many in the opening night audience abandoned the show during the intermission and others made dramatic exits during the show.

Thank goodness several strong Broadway shows are coming on this series. “The Rat Pack – Live at the Sands” continues through Sunday, October 19. For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 480-784-4444 or go online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: F