BWW Reviews: Henry Prego's Stimulating Tribute to Frank Sinatra at the Encore Dinner Theatre
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by Don Grigware
Henry Prego Sings Frank Sinatra Live from the Sands/Encore Dinner Theatre and Club, Tustin
Handsome singer Henry Prego, who is revered internationally for his tribute to Frank Sinatra, has brought his "Live from the Sands" nostalgic show to the Encore Dinner Theatre through December 1. It is wrong to label Prego an impersonator. First of all, he is not an artist in drag, but a male singer singing in his own great voice and he is not doing a parody of the iconic Sinatra. He is rather, as he calls himself, an ambassador of the Chairman of the Board's music. Blue-eyed, with big ears and with the stance and mannerisms Sinatra is best remembered for, Prego, particularly when he looks up or down, does resemble 'ole blue eyes. Sinatra was cool and smooth, so is Prego. He had a quiet but pal friendly manner with the band, so does Prego. Let's stop the comparisons. Prego is a fine singer period who immortalizes the Sinatra Songbook.
As I looked around me, I expected to see people 50 and over, and I did, but I also noticed many couples in their 40s or younger, which tells me that the Class A standards sung by Sinatra still speak to newer generations, maybe not to the youngest crop, but who knows what a continual resurgence might cause or what fads or trends may diminish. Whatever the case, the music is alive right now, so let's enjoy it while we may!
With a 13-piece orchestra behind him led by terrific musical director Alan Crawley, Prego's 90-minute set has a nice mix of the early and later Sinatra with a couple of fascinating anecdotes along the way assuring that the creative sound we have come to love was not that easy to record. For example, "I've Got You Under My Skin" took the Nelson Riddle orchestra 19 takes to perfect. Other hit tunes include: "My Kind of Town Chicago Is"; "At Long Last Love"; "More"; "Fly Me to the Moon"; the rarely done "Angel Eyes", one of the crooner's favorites; "My Blue Heaven"; another lesser performed but brilliant song "It Was a Very Good Year", with some especially delightful additions by Crawley on the electric keyboard; and of course, the all time favorites "Strangers in the Night", "Girl From Ipanema", "The Summer Wind", "New York, New York", "Mack the Knife", "All of Me" and...what Sinatra show would be complete without his signature tune "My Way".
Opening for Prego is comedian Mark Cohen a very funny man who uses a seemingly brusque, up front Don Rickles-ish demeanor to grab hold of his audience, calling their indifference an "angry" but as he goes along, it is obvious that underneath there lies a lovable Brooklynese sort of Robert De Niro with the heart of a pussycat. It's a short set, which is just fine, as it's Prego that's worth seeing/hearing most with his inimitable Sinatra-like flair and charm and dandy set of pipes.