Sinatra: Raw. Written & performed by Richard Shelton. Wilton’s Musical Hall, Graces Alley, London E1 to 2 November 2019. 4****. William Russell.

Written and performed by Richard Shelton.
Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London E1 8JB to 2 November 2019.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat & Thu 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 50 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7702 2789.
Review: William Russell 23 October.

The first time I saw this review in which Richard Shelton does a splendid turn as the 56 year old Sinatra in the wee small hours performing in the Purple Room in Palm Springs, knocking back the Jack Daniels and looking back at his life was when he did a preview in a cabaret room at the Hospital Club in London. It was a stunning performance and suited the venue perfectly. Shelton, who has played Sinatra in Rat Pack; Confidential in the West End and on tour, has a fine voice in his own right and does catch the essence of Old Blue Eyes perfectly as he tells of his love for Ava Gardner, his bobby sox years, his Oscar for DiMaggio in From Here to Eternity, and his hatred of the press, especially the columnists like Hedda Hopper and Dorothy Kilgallen and the publicist Shifty Lazaar. A lifelong Democrat and campaigner for Jack Kennedy his alleged links with the Mob – he was a good Italian boy from Hoboken – led to Bobby Kennedy ending the connection, for which he never forgave the Kennedy clan. He is vicious about Peter Lawford, and for good reason.
His years with the Rat Pack in Las Vegas are celebrated – he stood up for black performers being treated exactly the same way as white – and he delivers all the songs you expect, just not when you expect them. There are gaps – somebody asked for a song and he pointed out he had still tossing it – but Shelton’s script is carefully crafted. Want to know more? Look up my review. He is a thrilling performer and this is a memorable performance.
The only quibble I have is that Wilton’s, although the vast crimson curtains of the stage provide a splendid background, is not the ideal venue, indeed it is not the ideal venue for lots of shows. Shelton is up on the high front stage looking down at his audience. Cabaret needs direct eye contact with the audience, for the performer to be able to walk into the audience, to lift people to their feet to help him out, and the like. Where he is isolated with his drinks, the grand piano and a first rate accompanist does no real harm, but does ever so slightly diminish the impact of the performance. He launched the show in London after that try out at Crazy Coq and that was the ideal venue for his performance. So set ‘em up Joe, sit back and sip your drink, remember the great days of his own record label, Reprise – which means reprisal as he was hitting back at the record companies who had decided he was past it whereas the result proved his glory days as a singer. You will enjoy the invitation to Come Fly With Me , his joke ending about the song he never recorded, and his final rendering of New York, New York.
But a singer needs an accompanist and Michael Roulston provides note perfect backing at the grand piano.

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