Sinatra revue brings back best of an era

Jim Delmont
World-Herald Staff Writer

Featured in "My Way" are, from left, Deborah Radloff, Brian Whisenant, Emily Griebel and Jason Weitkamp.
The Omaha Community Playhouse has created an attractive setting for a musical homage to Frank Sinatra.

Keith Hart's 1930s modern set, graced with an excellent jazz combo (Richard Shore on piano, Steve Gomez on bass, Vince Krysl on drums) is the backdrop for a singing quartet that took "My Way" on the road for the Nebraska Theatre Caravan last fall.

The show, originally put together by David Grapes and Todd Olson, includes a lot of shtick with the audience, commentary on Sinatra's life and loves, and some vigorous choreography (arranged here by the talented Patrick Roddy). All of this is laced with 56 classic songs - by Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Rodgers and Hart, Sammy Cahn and many others. The result is a pleasant evening of nostalgia, romance and memories of the greatest "saloon singer" (as Sinatra himself used to put it) of all time.

The best vocalist in the quartet is Deborah Radloff, a terrific young talent fresh from the University of Nebraska at Omaha drama department. A veteran performer of Shakespeare plays, she is also the best actor on stage, bringing high intelligence to her heartfelt singing. Her rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "Where or When" is sheer magic - and she's a good dancer, too.

But best in the dancing department is Jason Weitkamp, who has a lot of hoofing to do in Roddy's choreography. He brings flourishes and style to a lot of movement. Young Brian Whisenant is earnest and stylish and has some big moments… Emily Griebel is an attractive fourth voice who brings a lot of personality to her role.

The relaxed, smoky, torch-song style is best achieved by Radloff, with her rich, deep delivery and jazzy edge. The songs amount to an American cultural treasure.
Shore's touch on the piano, the famous songs, the cast's infectious enthusiasm and the shadow of Sinatra behind it all make this a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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