Frank Sinatra would have liked several things about MusicalFare Theatre Company's tribute to him, "My Way."
He'd like, for one thing, the company's renovated quarters in Daemen College. The space looks spiffy, with fresh carpeting. It smells new, like a new car.
He'd love the attitude of the guys in the production: urbane John Fredo with his fancy footwork and the sweeter, more naive-looking Paul Maisano. And I think he'd like the dames, Lisa Ludwig and Kathy Weese. Certainly, Frank would appreciate the awe-inspiring collection of songs -- almost 50 in all, ranging from not-so-often heard ditties like "Lean Baby" to huge, bulging chestnuts like the title tune and "New York, New York."
Lastly but not least importantly, I'm sure Ol' Blue Eyes would love that beer and wine were available in the lobby. No martinis yet, but it's a start.
Sinatra and booze go together. That's no secret. All through "My Way" the cast members are almost drowning in cocktails. The world being what it is, it's probably ginger ale, but you never know.
After all, the show sounds pretty well-oiled. We bop from song to song with never-ending movement and humor. "Sinatra recorded more than 1,300 songs," someone cracks early on. "We're going to sing every one of them."
In "My Way," Sinatra's songs are sorted into funny categories. A "Favorites Medley" begins the night, and there's also a "Young Love Medley," the "Cities Medley," the "Love and Marriage Medley," the "Losers Medley," and my favorite, the "Big Flirt Medley." There are others, too.
Miraculously, it never gets boring.
Maisano and Fredo, face it, are two of the most adorable men in Buffalo. Maisano has a clear, wonderful voice and even looks like Sinatra when he pulls a fedora down over his eyes and the light is right. And Fredo, who also choreographed "My Way," has a style all his own. Watch him tap-dancing in "I've Got the World on a String," or flashing that come-hither grin in "Where or When." He's irresistible.
If the men outshine the women, it's not the gals' fault. We have to hand it to Ludwig and Weese for merely trying to stand up to them. Ludwig, with her screwball Lucille Ball tactics, does give the guys a run for their money. In "Let's Face the Music and Dance," for instance, I didn't know whether to watch Fredo and Weese dancing -- or to watch Ludwig, in an outrageous, terrible wig, watching them with eyes narrowed to slits of disdain.
The show can resemble a wild cartoon. You laugh and laugh, and sometimes it's tough to know where to look. The singers are always busy, always involved. They're either pushing each other at the microphone or dragging each other away from it. They slug each other and wink at each other and look adoringly at each other and watch each other suspiciously.
Not that there aren't gentler moments. Ludwig, though strongest as a comic talent, sings a beautiful "My Funny Valentine." All four cast members harmonize in a "Moonlight Serenade" that would have done Glenn Miller proud. It was nice to hear Victor Herbert's "Indian Summer."
The band fills in eloquently and unobtrusively. Kramer, every bit the unpretentious, old-style piano player, leads a nifty trio comprising Danny Hull on drums and Dave Siegfried on bass.
The ending is a little overwrought, with Fredo belting an operatic "My Way" and Ludwig offering a toast paraphrased from Frank himself: "May you all live to be 100 years old, and may the last voice you hear be that of Ol' Blue Eyes." (Not to be a spoilsport, but I'd rather the last voice I heard be that of Joe Williams.)
That isn't to say, though, I didn't adore this show. I loved it. I would go and see it again.
With which, a suggestion: They should take this baby downtown. "My Way" is too slick, hip and jazzy to restrict it to this little Daemen College theater, comfy as it is. The show's portable, requiring not much more than a piano and a handful of barstools. Rent some space and run it for a few weeks for the younger, romantic crowd.
My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra
Rating: *** 1/2
Musical revue directed by Randall Kramer for MusicalFare Theatre.
Starring John Fredo, Paul Maisano, Lisa Ludwig, Kathy Weese
Continues 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 14 in MusicalFare Theatre, 4380 Main St., Amherst. (Special Curtain Up! performance at 8:30 p.m. this Friday only.) Call 839-8540.