Pictured: The ensemble of SINATRA’S SONGWRITER. Photo by Larry Levenson.
By Jason Epperson
There’s something refreshing about going to Quality Hill Playhouse and knowing what you’re getting. Generally it’s going to be pure nostalgia, and there’s little wrong with that. A fine example being SINATRA’S SONGWRITER, the well-tailored revue now playing at Quality Hill Playhouse about 31-time Academy Award Nominee Sammy Cahn. Full of comfort and class, The Q has put together a selection of songs by one of the most celebrated songwriters of all time, and if you go, certainly you’ll remember many, and will perhaps be surprised by a few.
For a period, Sammy Cahn was quite literally Frank Sinatra’s personal songwriter. The Chairman of the Board took Cahn to Vegas with him and put him up so he could have a song written whenever he wanted to. And also, as we learn in the show, for companionship. Frank couldn’t stand to be alone, so much so that he bought and paid for his friends.
Don’t plan on these songs sounding much like Sinatra, though. Or even that there’s much big-band swing to the affair. Part of what made Sinatra stand out was the dichotomy between the man and the songs he sang. What you’re getting is an intimate examination of Cahn’s lyrics and tunes as they relate to Sinatra. And that’s how it should be. “Come Fly With Me” is probably the most famous chart in the show, and it bookends the evening, with upbeat numbers such as “The Tender Trap,” “Love and Marriage,” “My Kind of Town,” and “High Hopes” along the way. Earworm ballads like “All The Way” and “Call Me Irresponsible” are paired with the deep and complex “Saturday Night (Is The Loneliest Night of the Week)” and “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears out to Dry.”
J. Kent Barnhart on the piano M.C.s with a sublime combination of class, wit, and sarcasm. Lauren Braton, Lauren Bradshaw, and Joseph Carr deliver a slice of Cahn with precision — so much that they could stand to loosen up on a few numbers. They tend to opt to get out of the way and let the song speak for itself. Some of the finest work comes from Ken Remmert on drums and Ben Tervort on bass who complete the accompaniment.
The whole event could stand to swap a couple tunes (there are 28 in total) for some more depth in the storytelling. But, if you’re a fan of this music, it’s here and performed in fine fashion. If you don’t know a lot about it, you might learn a thing or two about one of the most brilliant and prolific songwriters of all-time.
SINATRA’S SONGWRITER: The Genius of Sammy Cahn runs through July 8th. For more information visit qualityhillplayhouse.com.