Sinatra The Musical

It’s one for my baby, but 4 stars for Sinatra The Musical!

The World Premiere of Sinatra The Musical took to the stage at the Birmingham REP to rapturous applause last night and for any fan of old blue eyes himself, this is a complete must.

Written by Joe DiPietro, the story charts the ups and downs of Sinatra’s career from the very humble beginnings in Hoboken, New Jersey to becoming a living legend with a voice no-one could ever match.  Stepping into the lead role of Frank Sinatra is Tony Award winner Matt Doyle, who was every inch the showman and able to transport us back in time with stunning vocals throughout.  There was something effortless about his voice that enabled me to just sit back in my seat and feel safe, knowing that whatever came out of his mouth would be complete perfection!

We meet the Sinatra family, Nancy (Phoebe Panaretos), Dolly (Dawn Buckland) and Marty (Vincent Riotta), a typical Italian American family who stood for no nonsense and helped shape Frank to become the star that he was.  Panaretos as Nancy has wonderful chemistry with Doyle and her vocals were superb, with an almost jazz/blues sound which leant itself well to the songs she performed.  Buckland bought a comical element to the stage, with her matriarchal portrayal as Franks mother.  Her duet with Riotta to ‘You Make Me Feel So Young’ provided a heartwarming scene of love between the married couple.

We also meet Ana Villafane as Ava Gardner, the woman that Frank fell in love with and left Nancy for.  Villafane was stunning as the Hollywood actress and oozed sophistication and class throughout.  Doyle and Villafane also displayed wonderful chemistry and their relationship, albeit not completely faithful, was completely believable.

The first half of the show runs at just under 90 minutes, which in all honesty seemed too long.  Obviously, Sinatra lived a life and there are many stories that writer Joe DiPietro clearly wanted to tell, however I felt at times that certain scenes were just crammed in without any real necessity to be there.  There were many staging changes with scenery being wheeled in and out and on occasion this was quite noisy and a little distracting. 

There is plenty of humour in the script and some very funny one-liners, including a quip from Billie Holiday who, whilst being shoulder for Frank to cry on, declared “you’re a white boy, you’ll be fine”, which of course garnered a rather loud round of applause from the audience.

Of course, with such an incredible back catalogue of songs, the show treats us to some fantastic music provided by the on-stage orchestra who gave us that big band feel.  The orchestra was not in sight at all times throughout the show, but when they did appear the atmosphere really ramped up a few notches.  With songs such as ‘All of Me’, ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, That’s Life’ and of course ‘New York New York’, every single song took its place well within the story.  One song that was absent from the long list was ‘My Way’ which some might say is Sinatra’s most famous song, however I’m sure there is a legal reason why this was not included.

As a new musical there is a lot of potential for this to be the next big West End show, however the length of the show needs condensing, as the first half seemed to drag slightly.

It’s one for my baby, but 4 stars for Sinatra The Musical!

This show was reviewed on the 3rd October 2023.  Sinatra The Musical runs at the Birmingham REP until the 28th October 2023.  Tickets available here: Sinatra The Musical | Birmingham Rep (birmingham-rep.co.uk)

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Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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