'Christmas with the Rat Pack' gives holidays a Vegas touch

2011-12-08T16:09:00Z 2011-12-08T17:28:07Z 'Christmas with the Rat Pack' gives holidays a Vegas touchBY JOE WILLIAMS • joewilliams@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8344 stltoday.com

Impersonators don't usually perform at staid venues like the Fox, but "Christmas with the Rat Pack — Live at the Sands" is a scripted show with a Broadway-size set, multiple characters and seasonal songs. What we're paying for is the illusion of Las Vegas circa 1965, when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. had a late-night variety show at the Sands Hotel where the audience felt like guests at a private party. What we get is a reasonably faithful simulation where the quality of the stagecraft distracts us from the dated antics.

In the swingin' '60s, Frank, Dean and Sammy (along with now-neglected cohorts Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop) embodied a lifestyle that gamblers wanted to emulate. But more than 40 year later, in the midst of economic gloom, the onstage drinking, smoking and politically incorrect insults send a different message. Yet not only does the production steer clear of ironic insights, these drunken drivers hijack a sleigh from Sin City to Santa Land.

Swirled into the punch of pop standards like "Come Fly With Me" and "My Kind of Town" are a dozen Christmas songs and three chorus girls in elf costumes.

Yet notwithstanding the questionable taste, "Christmas with the Rat Pack" is an entertaining show, and two members of the mostly British cast are uncanny mimics. As Davis, Giles Terera is a lithe dancer and powerful singer. As scene-stealing, scotch-swilling Dino, Mark Adams has the comic timing to make the old jokes seem spontaneous.

As the alternate-night Sinatra, Alex Banks may not have the vocal and personal presence of the Chairman of the Board, but he could pass for Mickey Dolenz in a Monkees tribute band.

On a riser behind the singers is a very capable big band.

"Christmas with the Rat Pack" is a polished production, and if it's more of a pantomime than a party, that's life.

‘Christmas With the Rat Pack: Live at the Sands'

When Through Dec. 18 • Where Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard • How much $25-$71 • More info MetroTix

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