THE RAT PACK - LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS Review: Tribute show is given a new lease of life with the introduction of Ella Fitzgerald

Garrett Phillips as Frank Sinatra in THE RAT PACK - LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS. Photo: Betty Zapata

Garrett Phillips as Frank Sinatra in THE RAT PACK – LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS. Photo: Betty Zapata

THE RAT PACK – LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS style-over-substance formula entertains but ultimately leaves you wanting more

Few tribute acts can boast the longevity or the popularity of THE RAT PACK. Since its West End premiere back in 2003, the musical production has enjoyed several return engagements, earning an Olivier Award nomination along the way. 15 years later, the show is showing no signs of slowing down as THE RAT PACK – LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS heads out on a UK tour.

Based on a concept by Director and Choreographer Mitch Sebastian, THE RAT PACK – LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS takes audiences back in time to the golden era of 1950s to a fictional night at the famous Sands Hotel in Las Vegas when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr joined forces. Supported by the fabulous Burrelli Sisters and The Rat Pack Big Band, the set list features standards such as NEW YORK, NEW YORK, THAT’S AMORE, I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN, WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I? and VOLARE, all performed live by the talented vocalists.

Garrett Phillips steals the show as Frank Sinatra, belting out hits like YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG and MY WAY with depth and feeling. Phillips not only looks like Ol’ Blue Eyes, but sounds impressively like him as well, making him an instant favourite with the audience.

David Hayes works hard to capture Sammy Davis Jr’s physical and vocal eccentricities and while his emotive performance of MR BOJANGLES is incredibly impressive, he ultimately lacks the singer’s smoothness and style, particularly in the dance numbers. Nigel Casey equally gives an amiable performance as Dean Martin, capturing Martin’s oily, playful charm and delivering an impressive vocal performance, even if he can’t quite match Martin’s dulcet, boozy baritone.

Garrett Phillips and Nicola Emmanuelle in THE RAT PACK – LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS. Photo: Betty Zapata

Those who have seen THE RAT PACK before will see little change to the format of the show which sees songs interspersed with playful banter between the acts, as well as an occasional dance number from the Burrelli Sisters. After a while, the witty repartee starts to wears a little thin and the show’s style-over-substance formula ultimately leaves you wanting more. There are also some racist and sexist jokes in the material which is a little difficult for a modern audience to digest.

Thankfully the second half is given a new lease of life by the introduction of Nicola Emmanuelle as “the first lady of jazz” Ella Fitzgerald. Commanding the stage with her spectacular rendition of NIGHT & DAY, Emmanuelle effortlessly captures Fitzgerald’s style, playfulness and explosive sound. Her duet with Phillips on THE LADY IS A TRAMP is arguably the highlight of the show and her overall presence gives the production a much needed fresh edge. It’s a shame really that she’s so underused.

The music also remains fantastic with the superb 12-piece band delivering an impeccable, well-balanced performance which doesn’t drown out the performers and an impressive encore from the vocalists which sees the audience on their feet for MACK THE KNIFE, THAT’S LIFE and MY WAY.

3 out of 5 stars

THE RAT PACK – LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS at the Opera House, Manchester runs until 24 February 2018. Ticket prices start from £18.00