Bob Anderson’s Sinatra passion project revived in LA

Updated July 24, 2017 - 2:22 pm

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Bob Anderson has been up and down, and over and out, and he knows one thing: Whenever his Frank Sinatra tribute finds itself flat on its face, he picks himself up and gets back in the race.

That’s life, for Anderson and “Frank: The Man, The Music,” which lives on as a testament to Anderson’s singular passion and unique stage aptitude. Anderson owns a piece of Vegas history, having headlined as one of the top lounge acts on the Strip, especially as the star of late-night hangs at the Top of the Dunes in the 1970s and ’80. In a stage career dating to the early 1970s, Anderson has evoked Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Mel Torme and Tom Jones in his stage act.

But Sinatra is Anderson’s guy, his favorite, and he is pushing Ol’ Blue Eyes’ legend to its limits. On Wednesday night, Anderson recorded a concert video at the historic Avalon Hollywood theater to be pitched for national broadcast – early promotional materials specified PBS as the target, but Anderson is not saying just where this show is to air.

The finished footage is also to be sent to theater operators in New York to further advance Anderson’s dream of delivering the show to Broadway. “Frank: The Man, The Music” ran for a year, 2014-2015, at Palazzo Theater, closing just before Sinatra’s 100th birthday on Dec. 12, 2015. The show is also ripe for a U.S. tour of performing arts centers and international tours, as Sinatra remains an iconic figure overseas and also in South America.

But the show has no path to return to a Las Vegas residency, even though there has been continual speculation that someday Steve Wynn might bring the show to Wynn Las Vegas. Wynn is a huge fan and a genuine friend of Sinatra’s who hired him to headline the Golden Nugget in the 1980s.

Wynn is also a fan of Anderson’s, which is why Anderson performed at Wynn’s 75th birthday party in January.

Yet there has been no move to resume “Frank: The Man, The Music,” at the Wynn or anywhere on the Strip. More likely would be a one-off for the show at Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center.

“I have always said that my vision for the show was to run it for a year in Vegas, then take it around the country or wherever his fans are,” Anderson said in a chat in the Avalon Hollywood dressing room following the show. “This isn’t Sinatra’s town anymore. His fans are all over the country. They are not necessarily the people who are tourists in Las Vegas, at least not in today’s Vegas.”

In the resurrected version of the show in L.A., Anderson was again totally made over to resemble Sinatra, with veteran Vegas makeup artist Ron Wild performing the two-hour task. The 32-piece orchestra was filled with crack L.A. musicians (only the great bassist Bob Sachs was held over from Anderson’s Vegas lineup). The conductor, who learned the charts in just two days, was Lee Musiker, who has long served as music director and pianist for Bennett, directed the New York Philharmonic and has backed Torme, Kristin Chenowith, Joel Gray, Joshua Bell and many other stars of contemporary music.

“We wanted to do this right, and Lee’s resume is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Anderson said. “He is one of the all-time greats.”

Credibility was evident in the show’s production crew, too, as Todd Fisher’s Hollywood Motion Picture Experience company recorded the show – in one segment, with no moments re-recorded for the final product. A member of Hollywood royalty as the brother of the late Carrie Fisher and son of the late Debbie Reynolds, Fisher was recruited at the last minute, stepping in as Anderson switched production companies for the Hollywood performance.

Steve Eich, who directed Anderson at the Palazzo Theater, was back in that post in the L.A. performance. Providing financial backing is restaurant titan Joe Vicari, founder of Joe Vicari Restaurant Group and owner of Andiamo Steakhouse at D Las Vegas.

Anderson is keeping to the format: This is a full-scale Sinatra adaptation, the makeup and wig in place, the tux firmly fitting, the voice and arrangements all mirroring a vintage performance by the Chairman of the Board. “My Way,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Summer Wind” returned the musty Avalon Hollywood – which opened in 1927 – to its former glory.

“This is the next step in getting this thing going again,” Anderson said. “I’m still in the game, you know, giving it another shot, another chance to enjoy Frank, and to hang out with him again.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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