Before George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Andy Garcia brought the heist film Ocean’s Eleven to the big screen in 2001, there was the original suave set known as the Rat Pack.
Made up of U.S. singing, screen and stage stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, the Rat Pack starred in the original 1960 film Ocean’s 11, among other films, and were the toast of the Nevada desert town known as Las Vegas.
Their names glowed up on the signs of the Vegas strip, and the boys often, without warning, entertained the martini set and high rollers in the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel and Casino.
That early-1960s’ Vegas vibe is about to hit Vernon when the tribute show, The Rat Pack: Direct from Las Vegas, arrives at the Performing Arts Centre Friday, Sept. 23.
The show centres around the three leaders of the pack, Sinatra, Martin and Davis Jr., and even includes a big band and Vegas showgirls to rev up the glitz, glamour and music of the times.
“It’s impossible to recreate what they had with today’s pop stars,” said Vegas showman Seth Abrahms, who plays Martin. “It was a moment in time and was never planned. They filmed during the day and performed at night. It’s really impossible to recreate something that was so organic.”
Written by Abrahms and produced by B.C.’s Christian Tannis, The Rat Pack: Direct from Las Vegas does its best at transporting audiences to that time.
“What’s great is that both tribute artists (Douglas Starks and Bruce Hammond) coming with me have their own tribute shows in Vegas. I’ve worked with a lot of Sammy Davis Juniors and (Starks) is the best I’ve ever worked with. Sammy had everything, appeal and charisma, which makes his set so special. The same goes for Sinatra (Hammond). The way his show is set up, we keep the entertainment level high.”
Adding much of the humour is Abrahms as the “King of Cool.” He started impersonating Martin six years ago while working on another project for a Vegas producer.
“They needed a Dean Martin impersonator, but I wasn’t hip to take it on at first,” said Abrahms, who originally hails from Festus, Missouri. “I’ve been a singer my whole life and I knew of Dean Martin, but I thought it would be ridiculous for me to play him at first. I don’t really sound or look like him in real life. But it’s kept me going the past six years.”
Before that Abrahms worked as a performer on cruise liners.
It was while working for Royal Caribbean that he met Canadian-born entertainer and eventual Rat Pack show producer Tannis. A friendship and working relationship was born.
“We were both very young and we ended up sharing a cabin and if you don’t get along, you’re in big trouble,” laughed Abrahms. “After (Tannis) started performing, he also got on the other side of the curtain and worked as a production manager and theatre manager in the U.S., including Atlantic City. He also was also producing a magic show in Vegas.”
Although both men were working in showbiz in the same town around the same time, the two hadn’t worked together since their cruise ship days.
“We had talked about producing a show together and when I got into the Dean Martin thing, he came down to Seattle from Vancouver to see it,” said Abrahms, who decided to write his own show, and the Rat Pack was born.
The show has already toured Vancouver Island and is now winding its way around the B.C. Interior.
“It’s a brand-new show,” said Abrahms. “Everyone over 40 will know the music, but we get people of all ages and they come to the show to be entertained. Their thank yous are heartfelt.”
CKM Productions presents The Rat Pack: Direct from Las Vegas Friday, Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $54.50 (all seats) at the Ticket Seller box office, 250-549-SHOW (7469), www.ticketseller.ca.