The Rat Pack, as they were collectively known, was comprised of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Wildly popular by the 1960s, they frequented the Las Vegas casino scene. Although the original line-up is obviously now long gone, Theatre Royal Haymarket now brings us Christmas with the Rat Pack, and the chance to see or favourite songs sang live, with Nigel Casey as Dean Martin, David Hayes as Sammy Davis Jr., and Garrett Philips as Frank Sinatra. Accompanied by the fictional Burelli sisters, the trio take us back in time to the Sands Hotel in 1960, and over the course of two hours, sing us through both festive and classic hits.
A divine band, led by musical director, accompanies them and pianist, Matthew Freeman, who often finds himself as the butt of their (sometimes affectionate) jokes. The trio have carefully cultivated comradery between them: bartering, poking fun at one another, making little jibes, ogling the scantily dressed Burelli sisters. I understand we are supposed to be transported back to 50 years ago, when thinly-veiled sexism was a-ok, but that didn’t stop me grimacing as they sang Dean Martin’s ‘Standing On The Corner’ – a song literally about watching women on the street – featuring the lovely and not at all terrifying line ‘you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking’. The girls in this production act as accessories to the men, which may have been historically accurate, but I don’t think is necessarily enjoyable to watch. It feels like a total boy’s club, which is alienating for half the audience. Amelia Adams-Pearce, Rebecca Parker and Joanna Walters sing beautifully, and have that gorgeous vintage lilting tone, but their inclusion could have been done more tastefully.
Philips imitates Sinatra well, his voice is as close as anyone may get to Frank’s, but it is obviously inimitable. Casey physically resembles Martin and emulates his suave, magnetic charisma, while Hayes is crowd favourite as Sammy Davis Jr., with twice as much energy and earnestness than his peers, but unfortunately is unable to match the strong and effortless voices of Hayes and Casey. The cast shine brightest in moments together, during favourites like ‘New York, New York’ and ‘That’s Life’, which are such colossal and brilliant tunes they’re almost impossible to butcher. For fans of the era and lovers of the music, it’s an unmissable night. Obviously, they are not The Rat Pack, but I reckon they’re the closest we’ll get to the real thing in 2017.
Christmas with the Rat Pack is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 6 January 2018
Photo: Betty Zapata