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Rob Steele has a thing for Ol’ Blue Eyes

February 12, 2012
By JACK FELIX - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

The Community Arts Center's genial executive director has "Simply Sinatra" booked as one of last 2011-12 season attractions on May 4. And during the welcome for the recent performance for "The Color Purple," Steele announced some tentative musicals for next season, including the new musical "Come Fly With Me."

Few professional and community theaters will deny that the Chairman of the Board is good for business - box office business that is - as Frank Sinatra's revues and impersonators continue to draw in long time admirers and new generations of fans.

Maybe CAC Executive Director Rob Steele believes in the notion or claim that "half the U.S. population over 40 was conceived while their parents were listening to the music of Frank Sinatra."

"MY WAY" - In the past several years, this homage to America's all time coolest crooner has been the most popular Sinatra revue. The Community Theatre League presented a very professional looking and sounding production in 2008, finely directed by Martena Rogers.

Featuring either four or five vocalists who shy away from any impersonation, "My Way" features more than two dozen of Sinatra's greatest hits. While there are biographical details (Sinatra's origins, storied romances and all important likes and dislikes) sprinkled throughout the revue, the overall theme is to salute a true musical icon.

This breezy survey of Ol' Blue Eyes' music includes "I've Got the World on A String," "One for My Baby (And One for the Road)," "Fly Me To the Moon" and rousing renditions of "That's Life" and "New York, New York."

"My Way" is an entertaining portrait in music that is clearly adulatory.

"SIMPLY SINATRA" - Currently, this revue has drawn some rave reviews as Steve Lippia pulls his audience back in time with an engaging mix of his own musical interpretation and Sinatra's influence as one of the greatest singers in America's pop music history.

"We're excited and looking forward to Steve Lippia coming to the Community Arts Center in May," Steele said. As a bonus, Lippia will bring along a 16-piece band to help bring Frank Sinatra's essence back to the stage.

"Simply Sinatra" showcases music arrangements by Sinatra's own arranger as Lippia croons like Ol' Blue Eyes himself.

A frequent performer in Las Vegas, Lippia expertly delivers standards engraved in music history including "I Got You Under My Skin," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Mack the Knife," "My Way" and "It Was A Very Good Year."

"Simply Sinatra" showcases a repertoire of popular Big Band and classic American pop music with Steve Lippia as a "modern Sinatra" who gives a special performance by doing it his way.

"COME FLY AWAY" - This "new musical" was conceived, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp.

For area audiences, "Come Fly Away" will appear in the near future playing at The Hershey Theatre on Feb. 16 through 19, and in somewhat distant future at the local Community Arts Center in the spring of 2013.

"We have probably 20 dates on hold for 'Come Fly Away,' " Steele said, "So, it is very likely we will book this show for the spring of 2013."

Although he cannot confirm more, Steele hopes to finalize a specific date within the next month.

Like "Simply Sinatra," "Come Fly Away" features an on-stage band, but in this tribute, the focus is not only on Sinatra's music but on Tharp's dancers who play couples struggling with the "tender trap called love," mixing prowess with punch.

Unlike other homages to Sinatra, in "Come Fly away," The Chairman of the Board sings along. Sinatra's voice, taken from masters provided by his estate, is piped over the orchestra as a live female vocalist occasionally joins in or sings a duet with Sinatra.

Part of the popularity of "Come Fly Away" is it gives a clear cut "voice" to Frank Sinatra as he is heard singing his treasure trove of music.



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