Two men and two women perform in the play.
By LORRAINE SPENCER
Mention Frank Sinatra to anyone over the age of, say, 50, and they’ll have a story to tell. Maybe it’s their favorite song; maybe they got to see him in concert. Maybe they’ve even met him. No matter how big or small, everyone has something to say about the pop icon.
This is the idea behind “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra,” opening Friday at the Youngstown Playhouse. Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, the play pays homage to the legendary performer through songs, stories and quotes. Director John Holt makes it clear, however, that the show is a tribute and none of the actors are attempting to impersonate Sinatra.
“My Way” premiered at the Tennessee Repertory Theatre in Nashville in 2000 and caught on quickly. Holt says the production company, Summerwind Productions, is stingy with the rights. The Playhouse has exclusive rights for the play in the area, he said.
The cast is comprised of two men and two women, in couples. The older couple is more experienced and shares their knowledge of Sinatra and his music, as well as his attitudes, with the younger couple.
Paul Hoffman and Connie Cassidy play the older couple. Playhouse patrons will recognize Cassidy as a community theater regular. Hoffman is a new face in this area. He is from Cleveland and heard about the audition through a Web site.
The younger couple is played by Aaron Tranek and Kristen Puccetti, both Playhouse veterans. Tranek was last seen as Tobias in “Jekyll & Hyde.” Puccetti appeared in many Playhouse productions last year, but this is her first lead role. Like their characters, Cassidy and Hoffman came with an “inherent understanding of the style” of music Sinatra sang, said Holt, and they helped teach Tranek and Puccetti.
The musical director is Michael Moritz, and the play contains more than 50 songs that Sinatra recorded.
“People don’t realize how many songs he made famous,” said Holt. The songs are combined in themed medleys such as the “Broadway Medley,” “Young Love Medley” and even a “Losers Medley.” Molly Galano choreographed the production, which includes the opportunity for audience members to join the couples onstage for a dance.
The set is designed in the style of a ’40s or ’50s nightclub. Music director Moritz is actually building his own baby grand piano for the production. The band plays in the center of the stage on a large black and white checked platform. The nightclub set even includes a full service bar. During the “Losers Medley,” Hoffman sings “One For My Baby,” and Holt tends bar.
The cast is dressed “to the teeth,” said Holt, as nightclub singers. The men will wear tuxedos and the women will be in elegant gowns. They even created their own Rat Pack names: Hoffman is Buddy Malone, Franek is Sonny Bishop, Cassidy chose Rita St. Marie, and Puccetti is Lucy Desmond.
The play is presented in two acts and flies by in about an hour and 45 minutes, said Holt.