I am a freelance writer specialising mainly in health and education and living in Staffordshire. Find me on Linked In
The Music Of The Rat Pack Within A Musical Comedy Wrapper
The best of British musical comedy can be found in this moving but extremely funny tribute to the suave, sophisticated and oh so mellow singers who were collectively known as crooners. This two-hour show, simply entitled Crooners, is a must for fans of the various Rat Pack live stage shows that feature the music and performances of the legendary Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr. But lovers of comedy will also enjoy having their funny bones tickled, as was clearly evident when I saw the show performed at the Lichfield Garrick theatre on Saturday 24th February.
'Rupert', 'Charlie' and 'Winston' star in musical comedy Crooners
Crooners, which is currently enjoying a UK tour until December, is a collaboration between comedy writer and performer Roman Marek and one of the UK's most prolific modern swing bands, The Mini Big Band. It features the music of the greatest crooners of all time - Rat Pack members Sinatra, Martin and Davis Jnr - as well as the likes of Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin and Britain's very own crooners, Matt Monro and Frankie Vaughan. Crooners very loosely tells the story, if one can call it that, of the decline of this type of singer, with the voice of a David Attenborough imitator opening the show by lamenting the threatened extinction of the crooner 'species'. The last surviving crooners then set out to identify potential female mates from the audience in order to maintain the 'species'.
Roman Marek (centre) and Jim Whitley (right) display their tap dance skills while Phil Barley (left) looks on
The three stars of the show are the aforementioned Mr Marek as 'Charlie', Jim Whitley as 'Winston', and Phil Barley as 'Rupert' who all perform superbly. All three have previously performed in Rat Pack shows as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin respectively, although Roman began his career as an actor in television soaps and Jim is a former professional footballer who played for Manchester City, Wrexham and Northern Ireland before his career was cut short by injury. All three display impressive vocal ability, but they also clearly demonstrate a talent for comedy, particularly Roman who is at the centre of most of the humour. In addition, Jim shows off his former footballing footwork with an impressive soft shoe tap dance routine.
Crooners, which benefits from the excellent nine-piece modern swing band, The Mini Big Band, opens with 'Rupert', 'Charlie' and 'Winston' singing How Do You Do, previously recorded by Matt Monro. It then becomes Sinatra time with Come Fly With Me and You Make Me Feel So Young, before the Brits again come to the fore with My Kind Of Girl, originally released by Monro, and Give Me The Moonlight, which became Frankie Vaughan's signature tune. The comedy then holds much more sway with 'Rupert' performing a particularly funny rendition of When You're Smiling and 'Charlie' dons an old-style swimsuit for Bobby Darin's Beyond The Sea. The comedy opens the second half with all three crooners doing a reverse striptease by dressing up in dinner suits, while their troublesome false moustaches also provide plenty of laughs throughout the show.
Phil Barley as Rupert in front of The Mini Big Band
Crooners also pays a direct tribute to the Rat Pack with 'Rupert' performing Ain't That A Kick In The Head as Dean Martin, 'Winston' taking on Mr Bojangles as Sammy Davis Jnr, and 'Charlie' singing Fly Me To The Moon as Sinatra.