Better late than never—even a decade late. Not having caught “Our Sinatra” ten years ago when it first played the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, I have finally made amends upon the anniversary return of the original cast to triumphantly open the new season in the same location (Aug. 31-Sept. 11, 2010). Meanwhile, “Our Sinatra” has been continuing to please audiences in a variety of venues. Wow, what I’ve been missing! You too, if you haven’t yet seen this terrific show starring Eric Comstock, Hilary Kole and Christopher Gines.
An incredible number of songs, some 60 of them, associated with Frank Sinatra are in expert hands as these delightful and accomplished performers breezily offer them interspersed with occasional expert and entertaining comment. It is a great repertoire, and although paying proper deference to the fabled star, there is no tacky effort at mere imitation. Who could possibly recapture the real voice? Coming closest to Sinatra in looks and manner is Christopher Gines, and though he manages to suggest Sinatra’s style and phrasing, he establishes the music on his own terms rather than succumb to attempts at imitation.
The personable Eric Comstock provides the spirited piano accompaniment and contributes generously to the vocals. As for Hilary Kole, she is a gem of a pop jazz vocalist—no secret in the trade—and here she absolutely shines with her assortment of interpretations of Sinatra classics. Each performer is given plenty of opportunities to solo, but they also blend nicely together as a threesome, and throughout the show they interact with a sense of fun smoothly communicated to the audience. In fact, there is admirable smoothness to the entire swift-moving show, directed by Kurt Stamm and produced by Jack Lewin, with Richard Maltby, Jr. as production supervisor. Boots Maleson is on bass.
And what a collection of songs, starting off strongly with the trio’s “Where or When.” Gines further gives a sampling of what we are in for with “Oh Look at Me Now” and Kole dazzles with “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Comstock picks up the tempo with “Too Marvelous for Words.”
There are so many highlights that one can cite. Kole provides a compelling, fascinating “I’m a Fool to Want You,” and when she tears into “World on a String,” her jazz skills are wonderfully evident with her impressively creative scat trip. Comstock also has his super moments, especially with a sad, pensive rendition of “Everything Happens to Me,” and he and Kole team nicely with “Day In, Day Out.”
There are so many songs, so little time, even at a length of an hour and twenty minutes. A solution has been to group many of the numbers in medleys, as with a tribute to the movies encompassing songs Sinatra delivered on screen. There is also a “saloon tribute,” and what Comstock described as ‘the mother of all medleys,” a huge climactic section including snatches of “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “The Best is Yet to Come,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week” and on and on.
When Comstock, Kole and Gines sign off with the encore “Put Your Dreams Away,” you’ll know you have been royally entertained with one of the best cabaret nights you can encounter. At the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street. Phone: 212-419-9331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.