During the curtain call bows on the first night of Sinatra The Man and his Music at the London Palladium, that returns the crooner to the West End address where he first made his European live debut 65 years ago, his daughter Nancy took to the stage to tell that her father always said to make an effort. The producers of this tribute show, intermingling film and audio recordings of the singer with a large live dance troupe in support and the backing of a massive brassy onstage 24 piece swing band, have certainly made an effort to bring him back to life; but the result feels effortful, not effortless.
Yet if there's one word that summonses up Sinatra's singing style, it is effortless — a suave, easy polish that's made him one of the greatest male song stylists of all time. So that's the first paradox of many that the evening throws up, including the feeling I had that David Gilmore's very busy production was at its best when he wasn't actually on.
That's when it leaves his voice and image behind to let the 24-piece band alone fire up Don Sebesky and David Pierce's sizzling arrangements (also heard in the vibrant 2010 Twyla Tharp Sinatra Broadway dance revue Come Fly Away) and the 20 strong troupe of dancers launch their bodies into GJD Choreography's exhilarating movement.
But that's not the reason we're there (and certainly not at these prices, which reach £125 a ticket). The show's stated raison d'être is to bring Sinatra back to life, and draws on a combination of archive footage and modern technology to do so. The high tech parade of screens, which seem to have been choreographed themselves, create another mismatch between the floating larger-than-life footage of him and the grainy images that some of them show.
The show also doesn't always feel faithful to the songs, either. It's weird, for instance, to turn New York, New York — an ode to that great city once sung on this same Palladium stage by Liza Minnelli who had originated the song in the film of the same name — into a gussied up Las Vegas chorus number, complete with a line-up of scantily-clad dancers wearing little more than ostrich feathers.
All things considered, you might have a more authentic Sinatra experience if you stayed at home and googled him on YouTube, played his CDs, or (best of all) watched him as Nathan Detroit in the film version of Guys and Dolls.
"If you were cynical about it, you might find it hard to watch for very different reasons. The narrative was inevitably sentimental and hagiographic, and there was something discombobulating about the collision of two different eras of entertainment."
Neil McCormick for The Telegraph
"We may get a hazy impression of his character, but his technique is right under the microscope. It’s an opportunity to savour the legendary Sinatra voice — smooth and seductive, with an edge of mischief."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard
External links to full reviews from popular press