Review: Symphonic Rat Pack

Simon Hale is at Symphony Hall to watch the CBSO tackle the Rat Pack.

What a swell party this is – crooned Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to a packed Symphony Hall audience that judging by its applause all evening clearly agreed.

Dressed in tuxedos and with cocktail glasses in hand, the legendary singers were demonstrating their camaraderie and chemistry performing one of Cole Porter’s famous songs Well Did you Evah! from the musical High Society.

Having of course long passed away, Stephen Triffitt and Mark Adams were in the shiny shoes of Frank and Dean, two of the Definitive Rat Pack who also included on stage George Long as the Pack’s third member Sammy Davis Jr.

All three British singers had first performed together as the original Rat Pack tribute act, Live from Las Vegas, more than twenty years ago supported by a big band but now had the CBSO conducted by Alfonso Casado Trigo behind them.

From the moment that Triffitt first appeared in a silky-smooth grey suit and then sang Come Fly with Me, the uncanny likeness in voice and appearance was spine chilling. Once he had moved on to another Cole Porter number, I’ve Got you Under My Skin, you could believe it was Ol’ Blue Eyes up there himself.

All three singers sang solo or in twos or threes and with the vocal backing of The Golddiggers, a charming trio of Megan Turner, Emma Fentiman and Hannah Lindsey, the latter accompanying Sinatra in Somethin’ Stupid, a duet originally written for Frank and his singer daughter Nancy.

Mark Adams lived up to Martin’s reputation as a drinker from the moment he arrived on stage holding a whisky tumbler. After the interval he pushed on a full cocktail trolley. His drunken and at times sexist delivery seemed aimed at the many nostalgia-led over seventies in the audience. Nevertheless, he sang Dino’s famous 50s and 60s hits including That’s Amore, Volare and Everybody Loves Somebody irresistibly, as did Long in his energetic renditions of Davis’s The Candyman and Mr Bojangles.

The on-stage banter seemed perfectly natural, as were the groan-worthy one-liners. Noteworthy were Martin’s “I slept last night like a baby; I woke up with a bottle” and his “I found a full-bodied red in the wine cellar,” which elicited Sinatra’s raffish response: “Did you catch her name?”
From the opening overture, the CBSO were brass heavy with some thrilling solo work from the trombones and saxophones helping to create the big band sound. The strings had more to say in the more reflective and melancholic songs such as Night and Day, Strangers in the Night and My Way – which preceded the final barnstorming New York, New York that brought the audience to their feet.

The CBSO returns to Symphony Hall on Wednesday, January 31st at 7.30pm for Jess Gillam plays Williams & Villa-Lobos in a programme that includes Gioachino Rossini’s Overture to La Cenerentola, Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Fantasia for Saxophone. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel Suite, John Williams’ Escapades and Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite: