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‘Dean Lives’ has lots of love for Valentine’s Day show

Drew Anthony doesn’t need to change up the set list when he brings “Dean Lives” to the Robins Theatre for Valentine’s Day.

Love was a popular topic in the songs Dean Martin sang

“It’s all of them — either in or out (of love), one or the other,” Anthony said, during a telephone interview from Las Vegas.

“That’s Amore,” “Everybody Loves Somebody” and “You’re Nobody ’til Somebody Loves You” are a few of the many love songs associated with the actor and singer Anthony has been portraying since 2006.

“‘That’s Amore’ — that says it all. These songs take people back. They remember themselves being in love, or it’s grandkids, remembering their grandparents being in love.”

It was singing the songs his mother and grandmother loved while growing up in Connecticut that started Anthony on his chosen career path.

“That old-fashioned, lazy crooning sort of voice, a lot of his songs are like that,” he said. “‘Memories Are Made of This,’ ‘Welcome to My World’ and ‘Everybody Loves Somebody,’ those are my favorites.”

Martin, who was born in Steubenville in 1917, started out as a singer, but he became a star after teaming up with comedian Jerry Lewis to form a musical comedy act that led to several hit films in the 1950s.

After they split in 1956, Martin continued to act and also had more than a dozen hits on the pop charts. He was a founding member of the Rat Pack, star of his own long-running television variety show and host of a series of celebrity roasts. He was 78 years old when he died in 1995.

Anthony takes the audience through the different phases of Martin’s career backed by a band and joined on stage by performers portraying Lewis, Marilyn Monroe, Peggy Lee and Johnny Carson.

Anyone who succeeded in as many realms as Martin clearly was driven, but one of the major characteristics of his persona was making everything he did seem effortless and off the cuff.

“Hopefully, I succeed in appearing that way,” Anthony said. “Dean himself, he worked hard, based on all of the books I’ve read. He put a lot of time in. When I listen to him, he’s singing songs that are not that easy, but he makes it sound like he’s doing it so effortlessly. It’s not as easy at that when you’re actually doing it.

“I try to come as close as I can to making it sound pretty and easy and making it look like you’re not thinking about it while doing it. That’s probably the biggest challenge, basically to appear you’re not trying at all while really trying to do a good job.”

Anthony said duplicating Martin’s singing voice was easier for him initially than capturing his comedic style.

‘He was a really good comedian, very experienced in telling jokes. He did it night after night with Jerry, learning that stuff and probably doing six, seven shows a night.”

Anthony wasn’t a joke teller, but he had a playful, teasing sense of humor that helped him get comfortable in that role.

Anthony still works regularly in Las Vegas, portraying Martin in a Rat Pack tribute show, but he spends one or two weekends a month on the road with “Dean Lives,” the show he created. Markets like the Mahoning Valley, which has a large Italian-American population and a proximity to Martin’s hometown, have been good to Anthony, and he’s played here several times over the years. But being in Las Vegas, Anthony has performed for audiences who traveled there from around the world, and he’s met fans from Scotland and Australia who are just as passionate about the kid from Steubenville.

“Being Italian-American in growing up in my household, my mother especially loved Dean Martin,” he said. “The more I play him, the more I attempt to be accurate and respectful and just do a good job. I’ve read books and learned about him, and the more I learn, the more I realize what a special person he was. He made such an impact on people that they still want to go see him, even somebody else playing him.”