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Review: Sinatra The Musical

Birmingham’s Repertory Theatre is once again putting its city on the world stage.

And it couldn’t be more fitting. The world premiere of Sinatra The Musical coincides with the 70th anniversary of crooner Frank Sinatra’s 1953 UK tour.

What makes this production extra special is that it’s the first official musical to focus on the life and work of the iconic singer.

It is New Year’s Eve, 1942, and a skinny 27-year-old Italian American singer is about to step onto the stage of New York’s Paramount Theatre and give a performance that will change music history.

Sinatra The Musical, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

As Frank Sinatra’s career suddenly skyrockets, he struggles with balancing the love of his wife, Nancy, against the demands and temptations of being the most popular singer in America. But when he begins a torrid affair with movie goddess Ava Gardner, his records stop selling and the press turns against him, sending his career into a tailspin. Driven by his devotion to his family, Sinatra employs his peerless artistry and dogged determination to stage the greatest comeback in showbiz history.

The show’s writer, two-time Tony Award-winner Joe Dipietro focuses on Sinatra’s early career, exploring how he rose to fame, crashed spectacularly and then made one of the most dramatic showbusiness comebacks to cement his place as one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century.

More than doing justice to a lead role of such titanic proportions is Matt Doyle whose portrayal is endorsed by Tina Sinatra herself, youngest of the singer’s three children and part of the production team.

Sinatra The Musical, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Doyle is, in showbiz parlons, a triple threat. He has a voice of silk, accomplished acting skills (he even has Sinatra’s mannerisms down pat) and, as he occasionally shows us, can even dance a bit!

Appearing in almost every scene, Doyle is the pulsating heart of a show which I have no doubt is set to take the world by storm.

Outstanding performances all round from a talented ensemble, including Phoebe Panaretos as Nancy Sinatra, Ava Villafañe as Ava Gardner and Dawn Buckland, who brought some laughs as Frank’s doting, but meddlesome mother, Dolly.

Sinatra The Musical, Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Phoebe Panaretos (Nancy), Matt Doyle (Frank) and Ana Villafañe (Ava)

And all seamlessly weaved together with 26 of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ hits which help drive the story.

So much more than a so-called jukebox musical, this production delivers on all fronts. A raw but sympathetic portrayal of an artist fighting for his own sound while also facing the consequences of the temptations of Hollywood.

Whether or not you class yourself as a fan of his music, you’ll not fail to be swept up by this stunning spectacle of a show. Quite simply, one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy. (And I’ve seen a lot in my 53 years!)

Go see it. You’ll thank me later.

Sinatra; The Musical plays at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre until October 28th. Tickets are available here or on 0121 236 4455.