Live Show Review: Gary Williams at Pizza on the Park

December 23, 2009 in Reviews

Reviewed at Pizza On The Park, London by Clive Davis, The Times

Gary Williams is one of the most experienced Sinatra acolytes, even bearing a striking physical resemblance to the great man.

While Frank Sinatra may have passed away more than a decade ago, his aura is as strong as ever. When Michael Bublé sells out Wembley Arena, he is tapping into the Chairman’s mystique. In the West End, the success of that long-running stage tribute to the Rat Pack — currently ensconced at the Adelphi — is a sign that audiences never tire of watching Frank, Dino and Sammy singing, swinging and being naughty with the girls. Never mind that the production values have all the sophistication of Cheryl Cole’s wardrobe; the songs still work their magic.

Gary Williams — who has done a stint in the show — is one of the most experienced of the Sinatra acolytes. As he demonstrated during his laid-back display in Knightsbridge, he can summon up the ghost of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, as well. His homage to the former included a suitably insouciant version of Volare, while Davis’s ghost hovered above the stage as Williams revisited that wistful hit, Mr Bojangles.

Sinatra remains the star of the evening, nevertheless. In his neatly tailored tuxedo, Williams even bears a striking physical resemblance to the great man, although his speaking voice is more Grimsby than Hoboken. If he has a weakness it is that his presentation is a little anodyne. While we don’t necessarily want to see him start a brawl or throw a Martini over one of the waitresses, a singer who is summoning up the spirit of Sinatra does need to capture something of his vocal swagger. The nearest that Williams came to pushing the envelope was a mildly tasteless joke about Tiger Woods’s taste in women, although even that aside was mild enough compared with some of Sinatra’s ethnic monologues at The Sands.

This being a seasonal show, Williams gave the audience its share of festive singalong fare, but also made room for Frank Loesser’s wistful ballad What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?. And as For Once in My Life hit its stride, his trio cleverly hinted at the thumping big band arrangement that became a staple of Sinatra’s live act.

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