If the room was bigger and we were not so close to the stage, then it would have been very easy to think we were actually being entertained by Frank Sinatra himself and not Richard Shelton, the man who brings Sinatra back to life here. But this is not the charming Ol’ Blue Eyes we once knew and loved, but a red-eyed, boozy Sinatra, railing at a world that says he is finished. This is Frank’s final show in the Purple Room in Palm Springs, surrounded by friends, before he retires, and he’s got some stuff he wants us all to know, writes Michael Holland.
The research and writing for Sinatra: Raw has all been done by Shelton and some of what you discover here is illuminating; his loves and his hates; his problems and their solutions, and all revealed to a backdrop of his continual battle for survival. This is Sinatra as you’ve never heard him before, but the man you always knew would be letting off steam once he was away from the crowd and with his pals.
But beside the ranting at the media, the studio bosses, the record company, JFK, racism and those he once considered friends, there is the music. Sheldon becomes Sinatra by the sound he produces and the mannerisms he takes on. If you close your eyes… There are several ‘saloon songs’, he takes a few requests from the audience and delivers the obligatory big number finale that we would not leave without. However, with anecdotes sharing the time equally with the songs, this is a play about a life lived as much as it is a tribute concert.
Crazy Coqs is both an intimate cabaret club and art deco heaven in the West End. In bygone years we would have been watching the show through a haze of cigarette smoke, but now we do it while sipping on a gin & tonic while ‘Sinatra’ does a good job of polishing off a bottle of Jack Daniels onstage. Sinatra: Raw is the up-close, late night show we all would have wanted to see: Frank Sinatra, a glass of booze, a microphone and someone to play the piano. So, a special mention to pianist Michael Roulston for such wonderful piano accompaniment.
Highly recommended for Sinatra fans.
Sinatra: Raw is on at Crazy Coqs, 20 Sherwood Street, W1F 7ED. Times: January 8th – 13th & 15th – 20th at 7pm; 13th & 20th January at 3pm. Admission: £25. Phone: 0207 734 4888.