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Sinatra Raw (Susan Elkin reviews)

Sinatra: Raw – ★★★
Produced by James Seabright.
performance date: 02 Jan 2019
venue: The Crazy Coqs bar, Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street London W1F 7E

RICHARD SHELTON as Frank Sinatra in SINATRA: RAW. Photo: Betty Zapata


We’re in Palm Springs in 1971 where Frank Sinatra (Richard Shelton) is giving a retirement concert which is actually, of course, an autobiographical one man show playing in London for the first time after a successful run in Edinburgh. Behind Shelton is his ‘orchestra’ in the form of accompanist Michael Roulston, a pianist of such talent and skill that any actor would be proud to work with him.

The backbone of the show is ten songs including All or Nothing at AllI’ve Got You Under My Skin and That’s Life plus a few audience requests sung unaccompanied which don’t really come off. The rehearsed numbers, however, work well. Shelton, a British actor, really has got under Sinatra’s skin. His mimicry of that very distinctive voice, not to mention clear diction and impeccable intonation are spot on. He also has Sinatra’s manner.

Between the numbers he talks revealingly and sips his Jack Daniels. And we see a troubled, anguished, sometimes angry and often misunderstood man. We learn how devastated he was, for example, that his ex wife, Ava Gardner, by then living in London, broke her promise to attend his Royal Festival Hall concert. Then there was the time he made elaborate preparations (including having a helipad built) for a visit from John F Kennedy only to have it pulled for personal, political reasons at the eleventh hour. He is contemptuous of rock and roll, racists and anyone who disagrees with him.

It’s warmly informative and Shelton, who explains at the end that he and Sinatra “go back a long way” is a fine singer. He has that Sinatra-esque abilty to sustain long notes as they die away and his dynamic control is splendid. The rendering of My Way at the end is moving. And yet this show – not quite a play, not quite tribute – feels a bit contrived and isn’t, somehow, as engaging as it ought to be. 75 minutes is, I’m afraid, more than enough.

RICHARD SHELTON as Frank Sinatra in SINATRA: RAW. Photo: Betty Zapata

First published by Sardines:
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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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