Infinity Theatre Company is offering a two-show summer season at Children's Theatre of Annapolis on Bay Head Road. The opening production, "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra," runs weekends through July 10 and features a cast of four singers — a younger couple and an older pair who first previewed this show in March at a Manhattan benefit.
Sinatra's last concert was three years before his death on May 14, 1998, meaning that anyone under 21 would hardly know this performer, often called the top entertainer of the 20th century. Admired by many boomers and most of their senior-age parents, Sinatra continues to attract audiences with his music and legend. The Chairman of the Board endures, as I learned while driving recently with a neighbor and hearing a 24-hour all-Sinatra satellite radio station.
Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, "My Way" is intended as a theatrical event celebrating Sinatra's music. In Grapes' director's notes, he specifies that the four singers — two men and two women — do not try to imitate Sinatra. The show presents 54 of the songs Sinatra is identified with, along with some lesser-known ones grouped in categories, including cities, summer, losers and the moon.
Infinity's tribute should please audiences feeling nostalgic about Sinatra's music. The songs are delivered by Joseph Dellger, Anna and Alan Ostroff, and Mary Jo Mecca, with Dellger and Mecca as the older couple delivering swinging 1960s standards and other classics. Anna and Alan Ostroff play the younger couple representing Sinatra's earlier years, although they include a smattering of later-era classics.
The singer most consistently reminiscent of Sinatra was baritone Dellger, who also seemed the most relaxed on opening night. Anna Ostroff's joy in singing shines through to add a glow to her every number. Most impressive was her delivery of "You Go to My Head." Her husband, Alan, was most appealing in his more relaxed "Witchcraft" and in the medley of what Sinatra called "saloon songs." Mary Jo Mecca's big moment came with "I Get a Kick Out of You" and in her rapport with partner Dellger.
On opening night, the four were often at their best singing together in harmony while taking solo turns, as they did in the "Strangers in the Night" opening number. Other standout numbers included "Fly Me to the Moon," "All the Way," "Very Good Year" and the final "My Way" number. In general, all four on opening night often sang in full Broadway voice that for me was not reminiscent of Sinatra's always natural, easy style. However, I heard from a trusted friend who attended a later show that the singers were more relaxed at that performance.
The vocalists were supported by an excellent three-piece combo featuring conductor David Libby on piano, Stephen Palko on bass and Gary Tillman on drums. All three communicated the essence of these classic tunes. (According to the program, pianist/conductor Mary Sugar will replace Libby on piano from June 30 to the July 10 end of the run.)
Infinity Theatre is a welcome addition to the local theater scene, and its opener should draw a large audience where most — especially grandparents who remain lifetime Sinatra fans — can bring their children and grandchildren to hear well-delivered classics that helped define an era.
"My Way" performances continue on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinee performances on Saturdays and Sundays. To order tickets visit InfinityTheatreCompany.com.
Community college theater renamed for 'Chief' Kauffman
At the end of "My Way", Anna and Alan Ostroff gave a touching dedication of Infinity's season to Anne Arundel Community College professor emeritus Robert E. "Chief" Kauffman, who died this year. He was a mentor to both and worked with Anna when she was a child performing with AACC's Moonlight Troupers.
The college's theater has now been named after Kauffman, and a special celebration is set at 7 p.m. Aug. 10 at the theater in the Pascal Center.