After the Capitol years, Frank Sinatra spent decades recording on the Warner Reprise label, so what better place for Our Sinatra -- a show dedicated to Ol' Blue Eyes' songs -- than "The Reprise Room," a new performance space in the restaurant Dillon's on West 54th Street? A sleeper hit at the Blue Angel Theatre since Dec. 8, 1999, Our Sinatra will play its last show there Aug. 12 and move to the Reprise Room the next night.
In a statement, co-producer Jack Lewin said the move came about because Our Sinatra was contracted for the Blue Angel only through mid August, and that because the show has done surprisingly well during the summer (generally a slow period for shows), it made more sense to move than close. A production spokesperson from the Tony Origlio press office told Playbill On-Line, "They always knew they had to leave in mid-August. But when you open a show in December, you're not thinking of where you'll be that far down. But ticket sales have really held strong."
The 140-seat Reprise Room (somewhat smaller than the Blue Angel) has never been used as a performance space. The show remains under a standard Off-Broadway contract.
Coming to the Blue Angel in late August will be Four Guys Named Jose..and una Mujer Named Maria!, a Latin-inflected musical from David Coffman and Dolores Prida. The show received a workshop at the John Houseman Studio Theatre, courtesy of AMAS musical Theatre, back in April.
Our Sinatra, officially opened Dec. 19, 1999, and, by mid-March, had racked up an advance sale of more than $100,000. Supervised by Richard Maltby Jr. (Fosse, Ain't Misbehavin') and directed by Kurt Stamm, the performer-conceived production is a tour of some 50 songs (full tunes and medley versions) associated with Frank Sinatra, from "Witchcraft" to "Time After Time" to "These Foolish Things," and more. The show's co-producer, Scott Perrin, also produced the long running (until Feb. 21) Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know. He told Playbill On-Line in February that Sinatra has had "nibbles from Vegas and other venues, and certainly cast recording interest," but royalties may get in the way of the latter.
"RCA Victor has expressed serious interest," Perrin said, "but paying mechanical royalties on 53 songs makes it almost prohibitive to record. We're moving very carefully, since this is a unique stumbling block many shows don't have." Perrin went on to explain that licensing songs for use in a show is a lot different than that for a permanent recording. He noted that clubs such as the Blue Angel, the Algonquin, the Ibis (home of Smart Traveler), Don't Tell Mama, etc., invariably pay a blanket licensing fee that allows performers to walk in the door and be able to sing most pop standards, since the venue itself is essentially "covered." Nonetheless, Perrin hopes the recording issues will resolve and expects regional mountings to develop soon.
Our Sinatra started as an August 1999 cabaret show (seen at the famed Algonquin Oak Room), conceived and still performed by pianist Eric Comstock, vocalists Gines and Kole. Stamm and Maltby helped shape this version, making some cuts and adding a couple of different tunes.
Stamm told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 8, 1999) that the production celebrates some of the lesser-played Sinatra works, rather than ubiquitous hits such as "New York, New York."
"We're steering clear of the stuff that is so cliched," said Stamm, "but there are hints of the hits in some places. It's more about digging in and finding the hidden gems, finding the orphan songs that weren't known until he recorded them." Consequently, listen for "These Foolish Things," "To Love and Be Loved," "Without a Song" and "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?"
Stamm, who is an artistic associate of Maltby's, first heard the trio when popular song historian Jonathan Schwartz recommended the performers for a Maltby-directed tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen in the Lincoln Center "American Songbook" series in October.
Designers for Our Sinatra are Alan Moyer (sets), Jeffrey Nellis (lighting) and Matt Berman (sound). Expect tuxedos and an evening dress for costumes. Producers are Jack Lewin and Scott Perrin.
Tickets to the show, which was embraced by critics in its earlier form, are $50-$80. When Comstock took a recent two-week vacation, cabaret vocalist Billy Stritch filled in.
The Blue Angel is at 323 W. 44th St. in Manhattan. Call (212) 239-6200 for tickets to the show at either venue.
As for Four Guys Named Jose..and una Mujer named Maria!, the four Joses are Senors Cubano, Dominicano, Mexicano and Boricua, funny, charming guys who have spent all their money to put on a show that will launch them into superstardom. They don't, however, count on falling for their lovely leading lady, Maria. A live Latin band, led by musical supervisor and arranger Oscar Hernandez (The Capeman), plays the classic baladas, boleros, cha-chas, mambos, merengue and salsa songs that serve for the musical's score.