In a pink suit and singing even pinker lyrics, this is Sinatra with a twist, presented with supreme confidence in a cabaret theatre performance.
The show celebrates Sinatra, of course, and also swing music in general. But in this small, art-nouveau styled room at the New Steine Hotel there isn’t room to swing a cat (groan). It’s always a treat to see a show destinted for larger scale production presented in a friendly. intimate setting – one of the great bonuses of the Fringe, of course. Scott Free, the man in the Pink suit, has won the title best unsigned singer at the Hackney Empire, and at times his voice does seem to threaten to raise the roof.
It helps that this first night audience is a good mix of the people who’ll probably turn up for the rest of the month-long run: students and tourists ready to get up and dance: people sitting back to enjoy the music: and a smattering of those more than a little dubious about this particular interpretation of Frank’s songs. Scott fully involved every group (no escape hiding at the back, I’m afraid!) but like all the best performers of this type, he is never intrusive.
He jokes that the charms of Stephanie Kemp, the accomplished singer and dancer who sometimes joins him on stage, is entirely wasted on him. There is comedy mileage of this kind in the idea of a Pink Sinatra, but there’s a risk the concept could descend into gimmick. This is avoided because Scott is genuinely amusing and echoes Sinatra’s style so well, being supremely self-confident while simultaneously letting his guard down to sing from the heart.
“It Was a Very Good Year” is re-written to be about men not women. Switching the genders does allow for a new interpretation, and lends the songs a fresh power. In a world where entertainers still wait an extremely long time before coming out, even though it would surprise no one (Ricky Martin, anyone?) it’s refreshing to see a career being built on emotional honesty. Scott prefaces “I’ve Gotta Be Me” to reference its potential relevance to the, well, ‘pink’ side of life. Unashamedly sentimental, and all the better for it.
From the point of view of a theatrical event, the show does lull a little in pace for a while after the interval, when several numbers are performed in a row as straightforward songs. This would work perfectly well in a cabaret setting, in which the audience were eating and drinking, and will I suspect fare better in the show's more usual evening slot than in this matinee performance.
Towards the end, the tempo picks up again with a vengeance. It bodes well when a performer can get an audience dancing so early in the evening, in the light where everyone can see each other and nobody is very drunk. Scott managed it with ease at the close of an enjoyable, memorable evening.
Reviewed by Lucy Nordberg 2nd May 2010