After wild concerts by pop and rock stars, it was a soothing change to sip wine, eat caviar, sit in the cosy confines of a charismatic jazz club and listen to the deep, romantic strains of that ‘golden oldie’ singer ‘ Old Blue Eyes’ Frank Sinatra, who was resurrected on stage, through a unique dinner-theatre experience in Bangkok.
Richard Shelton, a charismatic theatre-actor from West End, London, brought alive the great singer in a mini musical, ‘Frankly, I was a fool for love,’ at the ‘Living Room’ jazz club, the Sheraton Grande Hotel, Bangkok.
The musical dealt with Sinatra’s turbulent love for sultry actress Ava Gardner to whom he was married for six years. The title is based on the famous song he wrote for her.
It was the premiere of a new production that actor-director Nigel Miles-Thomas specially created for the Bangkok tour. He said he would be delighted to take the show to India where there are many Sinatra fans.
Thomas has brought many arresting dinner-theatre productions to the same hotel, including Dickens’ Christmas Carol and ‘Shakespeare’s Women’ enacted by Susannah York.
‘Old Blue Eyes’ certainly set the stage on fire, as Shelton tried to re-create Sinatra’s live performance in the 1950s at Keys Club in New York.
Supported by the hotel’s excellent three-piece jazz band (piano / drums/ bass guitar), Shelton belted out 15 numbers, the rich cadence of his voice mesmerising his multi-national audience, just as Sinatra’s voice did years ago. in.
The songs included the evergreen ‘Fly me to the moon, You make me feel so young, My Funny Valentine’ which the singer sang with full gusto, interspersed a la Sinatra, with plenty of glasses of whisky.
To add drama to the event, ‘Sinatra’ spoke of topical subjects such as the Oscars, though the ‘winner’ during his era, was David Niven ( he wasn’t pleased about that). with elections coming up in Thailand, it was also topical for the singer to talk of the Kennedy elections ( which Sinatra had been very involved with).
The real surprise in the drama, was when 'Ava Gardner' suddenly walked in, and ‘Sinatra’ did not know if she was real or a figment of his imagination. Apparently, the actress did indeed, have the habit of surprising Sinatra with unexpected appearances!
There was dialogue between songs, including a dramatic sparring between the love pair.
Huge cut-outs of the beautiful Ava Gardner surrounded the stage and for the most part, Shelton gazed lovingly at the photos as he sang. Shelton captured the charisma, humour and friendly side of Sinatra, as he chatted with his audience.
Shelton has done musicals in West End, winning the Best Actor award for ‘Rat Pack Confidential,’ which is what inspired producer-director Nigel Thomas to ‘create’ this role for him, after he perceived his vibrant show at the Edinburgh festival. Playing Ava Gardner, opposite him, was Rebecca Egan, of the Royal Shakespeare Co.
“It’s amazing to see how popular Sinatra’s songs are in Asia,” said Shelton, after the house-full shows in Bangkok. Of course, he dreams of “performing in India.”