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October 31, 2014

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Bob Anderson plays among the stars at the Venetian, but what’s next for his Sinatra show?

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Ed Foster

Bob Anderson in “Frank: The Man The Music” at Venetian Theater on Sunday, May 4, 2014.

‘Frank: A Man and His Music’

Bob Anderson in his Launch slideshow »

Sometimes to know if your own sense of a live performance is in line with those more experienced at judging live performances, look at their faces.

During Bob Anderson’s show at Venetian Theater on Sunday night, I often looked at the faces of master pianist and bandleader Vinnie Falcone and guitar great Joe Lano.

They were smiling.

And I was smiling, too.

What a show this was, ladies and gents, that Anderson unfurled before a packed house in his “Frank: The Man The Music” production on the former site of the Sands. This was an astonishing evening on so many levels: The Old Vegas Level, as Steve Lawrence, Marty Allen and Rich Little were among the many longtime Las Vegas figures in the audience. The Quality-of-Performance Level, as Anderson absolutely nailed his rote impression of Sinatra as his peerless 32-piece orchestra soared behind him.

And, probably most important, the Courage Level. This adventure took a pair of brass ... um, dice to execute. Anderson flew to the moon with his concept, which was far, far from a mere recitation of Sinatra’s songs. He wore the makeup, applied over three hours the day of the show by Oscar-nominated makeup artist Kazu Tsuji and looked so much like Sinatra you felt chills as he took the stage. His voice was terrifically similar to that of Sinatra, and the mannerisms were spot on.

If any of these elements failed — if Anderson’s voice fell off, or the orchestra was loose, or the makeup began to peel away — the show would not have worked. But everything did work.

Anderson rolled confidently through the ever-familiar Sinatra songbook, flooring the audience from the start with “The Lady Is a Tramp,” Come Fly With Me” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” He employed the cocksure Sinatra cock of the head and swagger (and man, there is an overused term these days). He forgot lyrics, maybe intentionally, as Sinatra did, and even tripped at the beginning of “My Heart Stood Still,” ordering the band to restart the song.

"This is too pretty to screw up," he announced.

Click to enlarge photo

Bob Anderson in "Frank: The Man The Music" at Venetian Theater on Sunday, May 4, 2014.

The attention to Sinatra’s nuances was appreciated by the many longtime fans in the audience. He re-tied his bowtie during “Don’t Worry About Me.” When the scene shifted to a Capitol Records setting — with an image of the empty studio beaming from the LED screen from the back of the stage — a voice shouted, “You wanna sing now, Frank?” Anderson, leaning into a 1950-styled silver microphone, shot back, “Nah, I wanna clean! Of course I wanna sing!” Then he did that, on “I’ve Got the World on a String.”

He earned three standing ovations, at the end of “New York, New York,” “My Way” and his encore, “It Was a Very Good Year.”

It was a boffo performance, unanimously applauded by those in the audience. But what is next? This was one show, a full-on freebie, as every ticket was comped. The plan was for Anderson to show what he could do for anyone with money who might be interested in putting this show in a showroom or theater on the Strip.

This is an all-too-familiar objective, but Anderson and his financial backers (Hoboken Partners LLC, headed up by James Flynn and James Quinn in association with Stephen Eich) have already poured more than $400,000 into just this single performance and are now looking for money back on that investment. Word around the scene afterward was that Steve Wynn is reviewing the show for Encore Theater. Certainly, no resort mogul has a deeper affection for Sinatra than does Wynn, who booked Sinatra ages ago at Golden Nugget as the two became close friends and whose Encore includes the Italian restaurant Sinatra.

We will see. I feel it’s Wynn or the road for this show. It would kill on a national tour of performing arts centers. As Falcone, long Sinatra’s music director, said afterward, it was the closest thing to the real thing you will find.

Nostalgically, the performance was a galvanizing event, too. After the show at the Sands — er, Venetian — we all hit the Italian-American Supper Club. That's what you do after you see Sinatra play the Strip.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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