A touch of Las Vegas style graced the Elks Theater Saturday night with Robert Shaw’s Lonely Street Production of Christmas with the Rat Pack. The Rat Pack refers to a group of Las Vegas entertainers whose most notorious members included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. They came to represent a style of cool, hip, fun loving party life associated with the Las Vegas casino scene of the 1950’s and 60’s. The music and spirit of the Rat Pack was on full display on the Elks stage.
Robert Shaw gave voice to the music of Frank Sinatra, Christopher Damiano was a fine Dean Martin, and Ira Hill embodied the spirit and style of Sammy Davis Jr. Heidi Lynn was a knockout as a Las Vegas show girl. The four vocalists were very ably backed by a six piece band, featuring Fred Hayes on drums and Matt Romy on piano.
The show was in two parts, with the first half featuring the iconic hits of each performer. For Sinatra, this included Robert Shaw’s rendition of “The Lady Is a Tramp” and an exceptionally fine version of “Fly Me To the Moon”. Christopher Damiano hit all the right notes with Dean Martin’s “Amore” and “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime”, and Ira Hill delivered Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Candy Man” and an eerily affecting version of “Mr. Bojangles”. In keeping with the Christmas theme, the second half of the show was devoted to carols associated with each artist, including “Let it Snow” “The Christmas Song”, “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas”.
As a social phenomena, the Rat Pack had a significant impact on the music and culture of the period. Each of the lead vocalists were mega stars in their own right. Frank Sinatra, known as “The Chairman of the Board”, and “The Voice”, came to symbolize Las Vegas entertainment. He made over 1000 recordings, sold 150 million records, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Amazingly, like the legendary Judy Garland, another early member of the Rat Pack, Sinatra never learned to read music. He sang entirely from instinct and memory. Dean Martin was a singer/comedian and a major star in movies and had a long running TV show in the 1970’s. Sammy Davis Jr. was a child star in vaudeville and one of the most versatile performers in show business history. As a group of friends they were socially significant for being ethnically and racially diverse at a time when American entertainment was still largely segregated. They are credited with integrating Las Vegas by refusing to perform at venues that excluded Blacks and Jews.
Christmas With the Rat Pack caps a year of nostalgia based shows by Robert Shaw’s Lonely Street Productions that have proven to be a favorite with Prescott audiences.
Upcoming shows include a Robert Shaw tribute to Elvis on January 4th, and “Cruisin” the music of Smokey Robinson with Ira Hill on January 11th. Tickets can be purchased at Prescott Elks Theatre