Thursday, 2 August 2018

REVIEW: Sinatra Raw at the Oak room in the Hospital Club, London

The small intimate Oak room is a perfect setting for this marvellous show which takes the audience back to 1971 in the Purple room in Las Vegas where Frank Sinatra is preparing for his first self imposed retirement concert later in that year and over the course of the evening reveals the iconic singer's reflections on the people who have shaped his career to that time. Richard Shelton has written and performs this wonderfully insightful play that in a drink fuelled confessional both recreates the singers greatest songs but also goes behind the sparkling blue eyes and reveals his thoughts and motivations. Sinatra, he tells us was a fighter and we get a real sense of how difficult he must have been to live with and work with ; on one occasion taking 22 takes to get the recording he wanted. 

Shelton is an actor who can sing and he packs plenty of emotion into his story telling and songs and when he sings sounds, and from a side on view even looks, like Sinatra. Dressed in a tuxedo with a red handkerchief in his breast pocket, he holds your attention and engages the audience with a natural ease, ad libbing and spotting the 'stars' in his audience. As he drinks his beloved Jack Daniels on the rocks , he loosens up more and spills more of the controversies of his life. We hear about his birth and the fighting spirit that drove him. His first job was a rivet catcher in a shipyard until a New York talent show gave him his break. We learn of the birth of the Rat Pack in the Purple room in 1951 with Dean Martin ,Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop and his subsequent falling out with Lawford. We hear of his affair and marriage to Ava Gardner and his campaigning for JF Kennedy and allegations of too close association with mafia bosses.

Throughout the play he sings some of Sinatra's best known songs accompanied by an organist and brilliantly recreates the singers unique voice . He begins with "All or nothing at all" (1939) and includes "One for my baby" (1947), "I'm a fool to want you"(1954), "Angel eyes" (1958) and "That's life" (1966). Shelton also demonstrates his strong affinity with Sinatra and knowledge of his repertoire when he asks the audience for requests and easily renders versions of "The Lady is a tramp"(1956) and "Luck be a lady" (1963).

By the end of the seventy five minute show we are starting to understand Sinatra's influences and it brings such meaning and power to his rendition of "My way" (1969) with which he closes the show. As in any great show he leaves you wanting more, more of the music and more of the man.

The show will run at Frankenstein Pub in Edinburgh Fringe every day from 3rd August to 27th August and has already been picked out as one of the must see shows of this year's Fringe.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★★
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