Rat Pack Confidential, by Shawn Levy, adapted for the stage by Paul Sirett, is a show that does not know what it wants to be. Is it a tribute to The Rat Pack or is it a shocking expose.
We are told that it is meant to be an exposure of the Rat Pack, as apposed to the tribute show called “The Rat Pack Live from Las Vegas” currently at the Strand Theatre. Why then has so little attention been paid to the script? Whilst one may learn some unpleasant things about the Rat Pack there is little that reveals their heart and soul. Sinatra consorted with the Mafia and was a womaniser, with his critics having the habit of coming to a sticky end. We learn that Sammy Davis Jr was beaten and ostracised in the racist America of the fifties and sixties and that his marriage to May Brit ended because of his love of show business. Dean Martin turned from imitating an alcoholic for laughs to turning into one, and was devastated when his son died in a plane crash.
However this biographical information comes across as a random assortment of facts. The men whose lives these facts belong to remain cardboard cut outs, and even when the play is finished they remain insubstantial shadows. Towards the end of the play as the members of the Rat Pack die, they sit behind the backstage curtain, illuminated by a light that makes them look like ghostly phantoms. And this is how they remain throughout the show, ghostly phantoms. We are watching singing and dancing lifeless biographies, not the living members of the Rat Pack revived from the dead as the director Giles Croft would wistfully like us to believe.
Kevin Colson is an amiable Joey Bishop and he introduces some genuineness to the proceedings. Bishop outlived all the other members of the Rat Pack, but try as he may he can never revive the acclamation he received from performing alongside such great stars. At the beginning and end of the show he stands on stage a lonely figure reminiscing about his days with the gang.
Alex Giannini gives a good performance as Dean Martin, but then there is little demanded of him apart from slurring his way through songs such as ‘Amor’ in an alcoholic stupor. Robin Kingsland characterisation of Peter Lawford is one of doleful eyes and disconsolate expressions and Paul Sharma lacks the flamboyancy that one associates with the vibrant Sammy Davis. However, Richard Shelton is a good Sinatra.
When the show is finished you do not know if you should love or hate the Rat Pack, were they great entertainers or sleazy rogues?
The tribute show ‘The Rat Pack Live from Las Vegas” at the Strand Theatre is by far a more entertaining show!!
What other critics had to say.....
FIONA MOUNTFORD for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Levy's version strips these legends bare." IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "A distinctly odd, unsatisfying show." JONATHAN GIBBS for TIME OUT says, "Save yourself the trip: read the book, and put on a CD while you're at it." LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "Overall it is one of those efficient rather than inspired, take-it-or-leave-it evenings." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "A fascinatingly dark evening of light entertainment."