Virtually real Sinatra booked for concerts

By FREDERICK M. WINSHIP, United Press International  |  July 1, 2003 at 6:34 PM
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NEW YORK, July 1 (UPI) -- Frank Sinatra -- made virtually real by new, breakthrough image projection technology -- will return to Radio City Music Hall next fall in a live theatrical production that may be the model for future concerts by popular but deceased singing stars.

The idea originated by Cablevision's Radio City Entertainment may sound a bit ghoulish, but it has the blessing of Ol' Blue Eyes' family and Sinatra Enterprises and promises to be well within the limits of good taste. Cultural grave-robbing is nothing new and was bound to find a 21st century expression in virtual reality.

"My dad loved everything about Radio City - the history, the stage, the audiences, the backstage crew," said Sinatra's daughter, Tina, in an interview. "Radio City Entertainment is the perfect partner to bring this precious legacy - my father's life and his music - to the stage in a manner that honors his style and respects his artistry."

Titled "Sinatra: His Voice. His World. His Way," the show has been booked into 5,800-seat Music Hall Oct. 10 through Oct. 19 and will probably visit theaters in other cities after its New York debut. Tickets are priced at the Broadway theater level, $45 to $95.

A spokesman for Radio City Entertainment said the show is made possible by a convergence of projection and cinematic technology on 40-foot high moveable panels. The illusion that Sinatra is actually performing is created by three-dimensional, life-like images of the singer moving about the stage, using footage made in concert, in the studio, and in private, including Sinatra's personal archive of family films.

Unrestricted access to never-before-seen footage, such as the home movies, provided Cablevision with the opportunity of exploring Sinatra's personal as well as professional life and depicting how private moments of musical activity played on his vocal styling, according to James L. Dolan, president and CEO of Cablevision, which operates Music Hall.

"At times heartwarming, at times cool entertainment, we think this show will always be one thing - mesmerizing," Dolan told UPI.

The events of Sinatra's life and performing career, related in a narrative by Colman deKay, will be woven together in a musical format by jazz guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli, whose trio was often used by Sinatra to open tour performances.

Pizzarelli is using a 40-member live orchestra and a large cast of singers and other performers including the famed Radio City Rockettes who will be featured in five spectacular dance numbers. On occasion, the Rockettes will appear to be dancing with Sinatra, an illusion made possible by new aspects of image projection technology.

Overall creative direction of the show has been assigned to Des McAnuff, a Hollywood and Broadway legend who recently produced the acclaimed movie "Quills." He is co-author of the musical "The Who's Tommy," won a Tony Award for directing "Big River" on Broadway in 1985, and is artistic director of the La Jolla (Calif.) Playhouse.

The show will be played out against images of Sinatra's favorite hangouts in his native Hoboken, N. J., the Paramount Theater in New York, and in Las Vegas arranged by set designer Robert Brill. Backdrops and projections on background screens will surround fully the Music Hall's Great Stage, Brill said.

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