Friday, Jan. 31, 2003 | 9:09 a.m.
"Our Way," a tribute to Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., is working its way up the food chain.
The modest production was at Tropicana's Celebration Lounge for a couple of years, where cast members fine-tuned their act.
This month it debuted at the Westward Ho as part of the casino's "Puttin' on the Ritz" show provided during an evening buffet.
The $14.95 meal is decent and attracts a large crowd.
But none of the 800 or so diners left after dinner one evening this week. Everyone stayed for the hourlong performance by three talented entertainers and a trio of outstanding musicians.
The fact that so many fans stayed is a tribute to the tribute show.
When "Our Way" was at the Tropicana, it suffered from the lounge atmosphere. It competed with banks of slot machines and gamblers wandering around the casino, distracting those who were trying to enjoy the show.
At the Westward Ho, the production is on a showroom stage, and all of the attention is focused on the entertainment (except for the slow eaters who might not have finished their meals by the time the 7 p.m. performance begins).
Because so many Las Vegas productions today use canned music, especially those on lower budgets, it is gratifying that "Our Way" goes to the extra expense of using live musicians -- and not just any musicians, but three of the best in town.
Music director Ned Mills plays keyboards and trumpet (sometimes at the same time), and midway through the production does an impression of Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World."
Bassist Chris Gordan and drummer Pat Sharrod round out the musical team, providing backup for Gary Anthony (Frank), Bill Whitton (Dean) and Lambus Dean (Sammy).
Anthony has been performing Sinatra songs off and on for about 35 years. He has the Chairman's mannerisms and inflections down fairly solid. They are good enough to have earned him two recent national commercials as Sinatra -- one for the National Basketball Association and one for Delta Air Lines.
There is nothing fancy about "Our Way." It is basic Rat Pack schtick, with jokes about drinking that are a little stale but are basically segues to the lineup of songs that have been chosen because they are guaranteed crowd pleasers.
The three performers are given equal time in the spotlight, and each makes the most of it.
Whitton has been doing his Dean Martin routine for more than 20 years and does a yeoman's job with the exaggerated mannerisms made famous by Martin when Martin was portraying himself as a lush.
Dean (Lambus Dean, that is) is not as experienced at doing Sammy as his co-stars are at their impersonations, but he looks so much like Sammy Davis Jr. and sounds so much like him that the experience doesn't really matter. When he performed "Mr. Bojangles," he was Sammy.
Anthony opens the show singing "The Lady Is a Tramp" and is joined by Dean and then Whitton. When the song ends, Whitton and Anthony head for a bar onstage while Dean sings "Candy Man."
Whitton follows up with "Everybody Loves Somebody," and then he is joined by Anthony for a duet, "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You." Anthony then is left alone to sing "Fly Me to the Moon."
The show is fast-paced, with the three performers moving quickly through comic exchanges that get them into their moments in the spotlight -- sort of a tag- team musical match.
Anthony sings "I've Got You Under My Skin" and then Whitton does "How Lucky Can One Guy Be" followed by "That's Amore" (during which a Jerry Lewis sound-alike screeches). Then Anthony sings "Come Fly With Me," and Dean follows that with "Mr. Bojangles."
Anthony closes the show with "New York, New York."
For those who enjoy Rat Pack entertainment, this show is all-too brief. It's kind of like a chinese meal -- an hour later you want more.