Tender, truthful and tune-filled - Richard Shelton's Sinatra: Raw is a hit at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre
Award-winning actor and singer Richard Shelton brought his multi-award-winning play to Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre.
We meet Sinatra as he prepares to retire for the first time in the Purple Room, Palm Springs, in 1971..
Shelton is accompanied by only the piano – there is no Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Nelson Riddle or Count Basie. This is not a swinging affair. He shares the stage with his best friend Jack Daniels and often sings unaccompanied.
He sips the whiskey as he reminisces with increasing bitterness – where he had been a puppet (to Tommy Dorsey), a pauper, a pirate (setting up his own record company), a pawn and a king – he’d had the world on a string and hit rock bottom.
Shelton’s flinty performance is pitch-perfect – his Sinatra is resentful, revengeful, remorseful, restless and resilient. He rails against the iniquities of Mafia allegations, a trail of broken love affairs, a life as the leader of the Rat Pack and a life in Hollywood littered with indiscretions and a suicide attempt.
At the heart of the piece is the great love of Sinatra’s life, Ava Gardner – arguably the most beautiful actress in Hollywood and known as ‘the Body’. The couple slugged it out, smooched and smoldered – eventually she was too hot for Sinatra to handle and they split.
His most savage mauling of the night is reserved for Jack Kennedy, brother of the former President JFK, for whom Sinatra campaigned. He put the kybosh on Sinatra hosting a visit from JFK to Palm Springs.
Shelton embodies Sinatra: he dresses like him and has all the mannerisms. To the most important bit – can he sing like the Guv’nor? You bet he can.
He delivers All or Nothing at All, That’s Life, One for My Baby, Come Fly With Me, My Way, A Very Good Year, the Lady is a Tramp, I Get a Kick Out of You and My Foolish Heart with the phrasing and storytelling skills that stamped Sinatra as unique
Shelton as Sinatra is mesmersing, tender and rawly real. I was with him all the way.