Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Laguna Playhouse plays it cool with My Way

My Way
(Photo by David Grapes, from the Ocean State Theatre Company production at Theatre By The Sea, Matunuck, Rhode Island)

It may be a hot summer here in LA but one way to beat the heat is to take a drive down to Laguna Beach and see something “cool”… My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra. The show, currently running at Laguna Playhouse through August 23, celebrates Sinatra’s iconic career and takes you from his early beginnings in New York during the 1940’s swing era, to the bright lights of Las Vegas with the Rat Pack in the 1960s, and to his final performances in the 1990s as “Chairman of the Board.” Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, it features book by Olson and is also directed by Grapes. The talented foursome (pictured above) bringing Sinatra's music to life are John Fredo, Casey Erin Clark, Karen Jeffreys and Jason Watson.

I find the development process of a new musical incredibly interesting and the director’s notes, written by David Grapes, provide a great deal of insight into this particular show.

Director’s Notes by David Grapes
“In the days after May 14, 1998, I did what most Americans did: watched the multitude of tributes to the recently-departed Frank Sinatra. His old TV concerts, interviews, and films filled nearly every available television channel.

I was always taken by Sinatra’s ease, his ‘cool,’ and the epic in-your-face way that he chose to live his life. I wondered, ‘How could that be translated into an evening of theatre?’ The solution was obvious. The key was in the music. I knew that I had to create a theatrical piece about this man. I called Todd Olsen, a former student and collaborator, and we started to work.

After some quick research, Todd and I were amazed to learn that the man had recorded nearly 1400 songs. We marveled at how he sustained a career over six decades, and we were intrigued by his remarkable way with a simple lyric, his musicality, his artistry, and the way he controlled both the song and the audience.

Frank really was the first teen idol and the first singer to have tremendous power in multiple mediums. There are really only a few stars today with the same kind of star power that Frank had. He was the first star to be hounded by the paparazzi, and his battles with the press are legendary. Frank lived his life out loud and let the chips fall where they may.

Todd and I got busy working on My Way. The first workshop was a book musical at Artpark in March of 1999 and included much of the same music you will hear at this performance. I then moved to Tennessee Rep in Nashville in 2000 and brought Todd in as my Associate Director. It was my idea to rewrite the show into a revue format so we added our arranger friend Vince diMura and started fresh.

We decided to choose songs based on themes we wanted to explore. We tried to include the ‘signature’ songs, but also wanted to include songs that not everyone would immediately recognize, but had great versions that had been recorded by Sinatra like ‘I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.’ We added and we cut until we landed on the 57 songs that folks will hear during this performance. There always seems to be ‘the one that got away’ and for us it was ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight.’ I confess that we really wanted to use it, but were never able to obtain the rights to use that song in My Way.

As we worked on this show, Todd and I set a goal not to create a show that needed an impersonator, but to first and foremost create a theatrical event, which is why we have two men and two women in the piece. I tell people that there is only one Sinatra and he is gone. What lives on is the music that Sinatra loved and that meant so much to him. We can bring that music to life in a style that embraces the true essence of Sinatra as the artist and ‘saloon singer.’

If you’re coming to The Laguna Playhouse to see a group of actors impersonate Sinatra, then you have come to the wrong show. The goal of My Way has always been to construct a musical revue that recalls the essence of the man through the glorious music he sang. We want to celebrate Sinatra’s mystique, and his myth, using the music he loved best: the American standard. We have tried to create a respectful tribute to a figure unlike any other in the last century.

We hope that audiences come away with the feeling that they’ve had a magical experience at the theatre, that it was romantic, sophisticated and engaging, and that they’ll leave the theatre with a renewed respect and admiration for Sinatra and the music he sang.”

My Way runs through August 23 and tickets are available now at http://www.lagunaplayhouse.com/.


<< Home


<< Home

<< Home