One hundred years ago, one of the most legendary performers of our time was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. This year, tribute concerts are being held all over the world to celebrate Frank Sinatra and his music. The National Symphony Orchestra threw its fedora into the ring with a two sold out performances honoring this great singer. Principal Pops Conductor, Steven Reineke, displayed his usual infectious enthusiasm as he brought together four diverse singers, each with his/her own distinct style. With the lush sound of the NSO backing these talented artists, the result was a magical evening of song that brought the audience to its feet on more than one occasion.
The show opened with the NSO performing the iconic “New York, New York.” Reineke then introduced the singers he had assembled for the evening beginning with Frankie Moreno. He represented the Rat Pack, Vegas style – appropriate since he has been named Las Vegas Headliner two times running. He also performed on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and has his own PBS special. Opening with “It Had to Be You,” Moreno displayed his ease with the audience, a physicality and showbiz flair. He showed considerable ability with the harmonica during “That’s Life,” though it didn’t quite fit.
With the lush sound of the NSO backing these talented artists, the result was a magical evening of song that brought the audience to its feet on more than one occasion.
The multi-talented, Tony DeSare, who represented a more classic, jazz style, followed Moreno. DeSare is a composer, arranger, singer, and an amazing pianist with three top ten Billboard jazz albums to his name. He was also named Rising Star Male Vocalist in Downbeat magazine and performs all over the country, from jazz clubs to Carnegie Hall. Usually accompanying himself at the piano, it was nice to see him backed by the orchestra with his wonderful interpretations of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” and Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine.”
Joining DeSare on stage was the only gal in the ensemble who more than held her own with the boys. Storm Large is the “rocker” of the group who indeed started out as a punk/rock ‘n’ roller with her own band. She has also had great success worldwide as a musician, actor, playwright, and singer. With a powerhouse voice, she is a favorite of NSO audiences. Large made her debut with the NSO as a guest vocalist with the band Pink Martini in 2011 and became an instant favorite. She continues to perform with the group as well as her own band. The list of her achievements could fill a book and she has indeed written a critically acclaimed memoir, Crazy Enough.
Elegant in a black gown that displayed a hint of her rocker roots – a tattoo across her upper back – her voice blended perfectly in “Something’s Gotta Give” with DeSare who also arranged the piece that featured some lovely guitar and piano solos. Large then had the spotlight to herself with beautiful renditions of “The Best Is Yet to Come” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.”
The final performer represented the “Broadway leading man” and is also no stranger to the Kennedy Center. Ryan Silverman was part of the pre-Broadway run of Sideshow at the Kennedy and went all the way to Broadway with the show. He also performed with Brian Stokes Mitchell at the Kennedy Center’s 2014 Spring Gala concert production of Camelot. His theatrical credits are extensive including Phantom of the Opera and Chicago as well as Drama Desk and Drama League nominations for Passion. He brought his deep baritone to “Moonlight Becomes You” and was joined by Moreno as they performed a rousing “The Birth of the Blues” to end the first part of the evening.
The symphony opened the second act with another classic, “Mac the Knife,” followed by Tony DeSare singing the lovely “I Have Dreamed” from The King and I. Moreno fully displayed his talent as a vocalist with a simple, soulful rendition of “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).”
DeSare and Moreno then took to the piano for a show stopping “All of Me,” switching places throughout and displaying their virtuosity on the instrument. Ryan Silverman returned with “Just In Time” and Large joined him in a gorgeous duet made famous by Sinatra and his daughter Nancy – “Somethin’Stupid.” It was the lady of the quartet who ended the show with a knock out version of “My Way.”
After a rousing standing ovation, the audience was treated to encore by all four singers in a medley of some of Sinatra’s biggest hits – “World on a String,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Summer Wind,” “Witchcraft,” “Luck Be A Lady” from Guys and Dolls, “All The Way” and a vocal reprise of “New York, New York.”
Reineke crafted a brilliant evening of music using many of the original arrangements and with the biggest big band you could have – the NSO. He found four artists who honored Sinatra’s legacy with style while giving the songs their own unique spin. It was clear that they were having much fun as I was.
Running time: Approximately two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Let’s Be Frank: The Songs of Frank Sinatra was performed on June 5 – 6 at 8 pm at the Concert Hall of The Kennedy Center. For more information on upcoming concerts and events at the Kennedy Center, visit online.