Sinatra: The Man & His Music - theatre review

Simon Thomson
Sinatra’s face looks out from a giant screen
London Palladium | ★★☆☆☆

Sinatra: The Man & His Music is the hideous offspring of a multimedia museum “experience” and Strictly Come Dancing. Attempts to cash in on the great crooner were almost inevitable in his centenary year, but this lazily-executed act of technological necromancy could appeal only to the least critical of fans.

Sinatra’s face looks out from a giant screen, amputated at the knees, floating above the poorly synchronised corp de ballet, and belting out his greatest hits in recordings of variable quality. These outbursts are interspersed with reminiscences about his life, cropped from various interviews, and illustrated with elaborate photo montages.

The show gets off to a bad start, with a hissing, crackling vocal track and enervated dance break draining the would-be crowd-pleasing Fly Me to the Moon of any joie de vivre. The rest of the first half proceeds in similarly dismal fashion.

Things improved after the interval. The dancers seemed more engaged, it concentrated on a more interesting period in his life, and – with no obvious logic to their order – the selection of songs was stronger. I’ve Got the World on a String awkwardly frames Sinatra’s involvement in Kennedy’s presidential campaign, while You Make Me Feel So Young is a more obvious fit for his frat-boy antics with the Rat Pack. Clips of Dean Martin provide a welcome dash of warmth and humour, but draw attention to the absence of those qualities in the titular star. The only consistently good part of the production was the horn section, which was brash and satisfyingly reverberant.

Some have suggested that this combination of live spectacle and archive performance is the future of music – on this evidence, let’s pray they’re wrong.

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