[This is my review, for KDHX-FM, of Frankie Randall's appearance at The Cabaret at Savor, November 14th and 15th, 2007]
Lovers of Frank Sinatra have had a good fall locally. The Rat Pack Live at the Sands re-created Old Blue Eyes' 1960s Las Vegas shows at the Fox last month and this month Frankie Randall played two nights (November 14th and 15th, 2007) at the Flim Flam Room as part of the ever-expanding Cabaret at Savor Series.
The connection? Well, as Mr. Randall frequently reminded us, he was a friend and protégé of Sinatra’s and, in fact, was given many of the late singer’s charts just before his death. Most of the numbers on his relatively short program were closely associated with The Chairman of the Board and Randall’s approach to them is very much in the “Sands Hotel hipster” style that defined Sinatra’s middle age.
For fans of that style – and there were quite a few in the audience on the 14th – there was “a lot to like”, as they used to sing in the old cigarette commercial. Randall sailed through a sea of Sinatra hits from the 1950s and 1960s, including “Come Fly With Me”, “Where or When”, “Luck be a Lady”, and “The Best is Yet to Come” - a song so closely associated with Sinatra that its title is engraved on his tombstone. He did so without paying all that much attention to the lyrics – even forgetting some on occasion – but that, too, is consistent with Rat Pack-era Sinatra.
A singer more at home in a cabaret setting might make more of, for example, the typically bittersweet tone of Hoagy Carmichael’s “One Morning in May” or the desperate yearning of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, but that singer wouldn’t be Frankie Randall. Mr. Randall’s approach to his music isn’t one that I find particularly interesting, but it’s clearly the one his fans have come to expect and, at least for them, he clearly delivered.
That said, I’m afraid Mr. Randall has adopted some of the late Mr. Sinatra’s less salubrious performance habits, such as not bothering to rehearse. At one point, for example, he noted that he had spent a total of ten minutes with bassist Dave Troncoso – which made Troncoso’s smart and fluid playing all the more impressive. Troncoso is a seasoned jazz professional, and it showed.
Mr. Randall also had a tendency to play almost exclusively to the large group of local partisans who occupied the center of the house. It’s fine to acknowledge your fans, but a key lesson of Cabaret 101 is that you must do everything you can to include the entire audience in your performance. Otherwise you risk having some of them feel like guests at somebody else’s party.
Let me not leave you with the impression, by the way, that I have no regard for the old school, “knock ‘em dead” way of handling The American Songbook. As Marilyn Maye demonstrated so effectively just a few weeks ago in the same room, that approach can be mightily entertaining. The problem is simply that Mr. Randall’s performance style is far more suited to the casinos in which he usually appears (he has, after all, been inducted into the Casino Legends Hall of Fame) than it is to a classic cabaret venue like Savor’s Film Flam Room.
In any case, fans of Mr. Randall can keep up with his busy performance schedule at his web site, frankierandall.com . Most of them are at casinos, so he should be in his element. Lovers of cabaret, meanwhile, can check out the upcoming acts in the Savor series at cabaretatsavor.com.