"My Way" -- Music Theatre of Connecticut
By Irene Backalenick
“My Way” is decidedly not my way. The title refers to the current show at the Music Theatre of Connecticut. Though billed as “a musical tribute to
Frank Sinatra,” there is little about it to recapture Sinatra’s world and his music. Granted that the four performers offer a medley of tunes from the Sinatra era—tunes which Sinatra made famous. (After all, he had recorded over 1300 songs.) But those tunes also comprised the repertoire of other singers of that time. Despite occasional comments, anecdotes and Sinatra trivia, the program could as easily have been a tribute to Tony Bennett or Perry Como. It is only when the quartet finally launches into the title piece (Sinatra’s signature piece) that one gets a true sense of Sinatriana.
The contrived, artificial staging is a further disappointment. What’s wrong with four people simply sitting on stools and singing their hearts out? Apparently such a stripped-down version of a revue is not in style, and directors feel called upon to add staging to an evening of music.
Thus the four singers—Johnny Orenberg, Jillian Schochet, Jodi Stevens, and
Robert J. Townsend—smirk and wink, break into dance routines, pretend ardor, and attempt to convey the story line. It is all to their disadvantage. Too bad. Except for this superimposed staging, the four acquit themselves admirably, in terms of the music. All four have pleasant voices, and can wrap themselves around songs nicely. They are particularly effective as a quartet, never missing a beat. Orenberg and Schochet are fresh-faced ingénues, and Stevens and Townsend are seasoned pros.
Moreover, there is real strength in the musical arrangements of this “tribute.” Parts of songs are attractively interwoven into medleys, never allowing time to be bored with any one song. Obviously, a master hand is behind this contribution to the show. The program indicates that Vince di Mura created the original piano and vocal arrangements, with further arrangements by Stephen Kummer and Donald Jenzcka. And Max Haymer, musical director of this particular production, must figure into the mix. Haymer is also the pianist, with the very capable musical back-up of Henry Lugo, bass, and Chris Johnson, drums. In short, there are musically gifted practitioners at hand.
Nevertheless, the show is not up to the usual fine work of MTC, directed by artistic director Kevin Connors. Based on the past record of Connors and company, the future looks promising. Let’s hope that, next time around, “My Way” becomes another way.
This review also appears in the Connecticut Post and on nytheaterscene.com