The Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas review at Theatre Royal Haymarket, London – ‘re-energised by Ella Fitzgerald’
Though the tribute act is still be a mainstay of regional theatres and club venues throughout the UK, few can boast the West End popularity of The Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas.
Based on a simple concept from Mitch Sebastian, the show fuses history and legend to recreate a variety show at the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas staring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin. With a live band and trio of female backing singers the show has been remarkably successful, changing little in format since 2002.
Following a run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in its Christmas guise – all tinsel and seasonal easy-listening – the material has been given a new twist, with Nicola Emmanuelle as Ella Fitzgerald joining the trio.
Garrett Phillips plays Sinatra past his youthful prime but still at the top of his game. The voice, belting out New York, New York or You Make Me Feel So Young is instantly recognisable and there’s an suitably abrasive edge to his performance.
David Hayes has to work much harder to capture all of Samuel Davis Jr’s physical and vocal eccentricities but he just about succeeds. Nigel Casey gives an amiable performance but he can’t match Dean Martin’s dulcet, boozy baritone.
Emmanuelle’s Ella appears just as the boys’ club antics are getting a little too laboured and self-congratulatory. Her late entrance is like a breath of fresh air. Like Phillips, Emmanuelle gives a remarkable vocal impersonation and their duet on Lady is a Tramp is a highlight of the show. Though Emmanuelle is underused, her presence re-energises a formula that is beginning to look a little tired.
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