‘Christmas With The Rat Pack’ at Wyndhams Theatre

This was my Christmas Panto outing for this year.  A cabaret show, riffing on the idea of the shows that were performed by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in the 1960s, but with a Christmas flavour.

In contrast to the other jukebox shows on in London at the moment, there is no attempt to give this any kind of narrative; it’s simply three guys giving us their impersonations of the three ‘rat packers’.  There’s a little repartee between them, the joshing of each other that the originals indulged in, Dean being drunk, Sammy being Jewish, and Frank smooth, but apart from that, it’s all down to the singing, supported by a ‘three sisters’ group, backed by a 15 strong band, arranged across the back of the stage.

The singing is good because they’ve all got great voices, but it’s not a brilliant sign that I spent a lot of the time worrying about whether they were going to trip over the cables of their retro style microphones.  And when I wasn’t thinking about that, I was wondering about how satisfying it could be to make a career out of the fact that you can do a decent impersonation of someone else.

There wasn’t really enough to look at on stage for me; I perked up when the girls danced, but there wasn’t nearly enough of that.  So instead, in my perpetual search for a narrative I watched the small interactions between them to see if there was something in the relationship between the three crooners.

Who knows what the dynamics really were, but based on this show it seems that Frank was the acknowledged cock of the walk, Dean had a better voice, but disappointed he wasn’t Frank, drank too much and made a virtue of that in a hard drinking age, and Sammy was the most talented of the three, but who played the fool and endured the patronising of the others in order to be allowed into the gang.

This is essentially a tribute band, but its the fame and mythology surrounding the original artists, and the age of their audience, that allows this to be produced in theatres rather than on the university circuit or in the fourth string tents at festivals.

It was foot tapping and fun by the end, with the addition of a few carols in smooth swing time for seasonal spice

In a trawl around the internet I found one ‘user comment’ about last year’s Christmas show by the same cast that made me laugh out loud.  ‘He’s the best Dean Martin I’ve ever heard.’

And there you have it; ersatz can win the day.

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  1. I’m sure it would have beaten Jack and the Beanstalk any day though. Nothing like good ersatz.


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