Arts » Theater + Dance

Review: The Stratford Songbook Series at The Palladium

Sinatra Sings Sinatra, The Centennial Celebration

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4.5 stars

Like turning the pages of a family album, “Sinatra Sings Sinatra: The Centennial Celebration” takes us through the ups and downs of a remarkable career. Frank Jr. tells it “His Way” — as he remembers the joyful and painful times, and we get to know Son and Father beyond the legends, gossip and headlines. It’s “The Voice” of course, that drew and still draws us to the distinctive Sinatra sound, yet it’s his dedication to secure social, cultural and economic inclusion that is uppermost in Frank Jr.’s assessment of his Father. Frank Sr.’s driving force was a fierce sense of humanity at a time when injustice was rampant throughout the U.S.A. Frank Sinatra took a position against this collective ‘Dark Side’ and never wavered until he made sure ALL of his co-workers and friends had the same accommodations he had. “What is America to Me” is his anthem and in the 1950s and ‘60s he invited us all to look into our own hearts and minds for a definition of “Democracy.” Yes, we love the ballads and the invitations to “Fly With Me.” We smile at the jaunty admonitions for “Luck be a Lady” and even the least among us to have “High Hopes,” and we are partners in a realistic overview of our lives — “It Was a Very Good Time” despite the zooms up, the stumbles down, the stride into balance. In due time the clear vision of “Ole Blue Eyes” transcended fear and hypocrisy—Presidential appointments from FDR forward placed Frank Sinatra into the international arena as a spokesperson for humanitarian efforts, and accolades came to the man who had to endure blacklisting by entertainment moguls who feared backlash against his leadership toward integration and inclusion and his friendships with those with A Dream. Did we in the audience at The Palladium on Oct. 16, 2015, detect a rueful side-glance when Frank Jr. reminded us President Reagan dubbed Frank Sinatra as “The Voice of America’s Dream” some twenty years after the backers of Reagan had painted Frank Sinatra as a traitor?

How does one become “An American Original”? Frank Jr.’s finely tuned multi-media program shows the progression from aspiration — listen to the best singers, detect their finest qualities, and utilize what you learn to build your own distinctive artistry. That’s a blueprint for each of us. From “at home in New Jersey in the 1940s — from World War II through the Cold War and the succeeding domestic War on Poverty, Korea, Viet Nam, Frank Sr. grew as we grew, from big band sounds to intimate sensibilities, from Swing and Jazz to Rock n’Roll and Blues, from swagger to sentiment, on vinyls, 45’s and CDs, in roles on the big screen, the small screen and the live stage — Frank Sinatra has been a household figure.

Indeed, he’s been family — making us proud and sometimes disappointing us, and we love him despite those head-shaking dumb choices. In the end, we applaud his self-evaluation — “I Did It My Way.”

In the Coda to this Finale, the point is clear — Frank Jr. is in the spotlight on his own cognizance. Yes, the inherited clear diction, the nuances of phrasing, the insights and humanity are glyphs from Dad, but Frank Jr. is his own person, with a delightful sense of humor and a relaxed demeanor. He sings the songs we love to hear, and delivers them not as a puppet, but as a commentator — this is my Father and my life with him, “As I Remember.”

Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra was born Dec. 12, 1915. He died May 14, 1998. It’s 100 years since his birth, and he’s still counting.

Long-time Sinatra music collaborator Terry Woodson conducted an outstanding company of players melding the Big Band Sound with a String Orchestra. It was a magical experience with excellent lighting and visuals to bring the story forward. Frank Jr. shared two-dozen Sinatra songs to take us through the evolving trajectory from the 40s into the 80s.

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