A Rat Pack Show is Swinging in Philly
The music of that legendary Rat Pack trio Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. is being revived in Manayunk by a show biz collective known as The Summer Club. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns finds out what’s shaking.
David Patrick Stearns: Talk about a double life. On most nights of the week, popular Philadelphia actor Jeff Coon is starring in the children’s musical titled A Year with Frog and Toad at the Arden Theatre. But on some Mondays, when the show is dark, he’ll be at the Venice Island Performing Arts Recreation Center doing stuff like this.
Music: “Birth of the Blues”
Jeff Coon: It’s a sound and a style that is....It’s an American institution, a singular sound that has become more and more important for me personally to preserve, and not in a museum kind of way, but in a 'This music still kills. This is still a fantastic sound and experience' way.
DPS: Coon started the show in Cape May more than two years ago, singing Rat Pack music he loved for years with a pool of sidekicks, formulating what he now calls The Summer Club. The show has no plot. This ain’t Jersey Boys. But with the help of sponsorship, Summer Club has something most Broadway shows don’t have—a 17-piece orchestra made up of Atlantic City veterans who crossed paths with Frank, Dean, and Sammy.
JC: The more I talked to them and the more I realized how much they enjoyed playing with us, the more passionate I became personally about making sure that we were trying to do this the right way. These guys aren’t going to be around forever.
[Music: “Feelin’ Good”]
DPS: For Coon, the transition from theater to concert stage looks easy. Just sing and banter. But he’s used to having characters written out in advance. And this kind of singing requires a different kind of narrative that doesn’t fall back on an overarching plot.
JC: Yes, you’re telling a story, and it's one of the things I admire most about Sinatra is that he was a great story teller. But you’re not telling a story to a greater purpose. There’s something scary but also really liberating about that.
DPS: It’s about the singers’ personality. And when you’re rat packing, personality couldn’t be more paramount.