If you Google "Las Vegas entertainment" you'll get thousands of links to shows. Many of these shows claim to bring back the vintage vibe that made the city famous for its entertainment in the 60's. You'll also get lots of entertainment where people impersonate the entertainers who frequented the city then, most especially the Rat Pack. Some of these shows are fine, fun trips down memory lane. But Davi Sings Sinatra, in the Venetian Hotel and Casino showroom this weekend, is much more.
No, Robert Davi is not merely "fine" or "fun." Fully titled Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road To Romance - A Tribute to Frank Sinatra, the Great American Songbook and America, his show is a performance by a master.
A classically trained singer with a long list of film and television credits as actor and director, Robert Davi 's first love is music and he is a student of Frank Sinatra and of American popular music.
Robert Davi is absolutely not an impersonator. He is a tribute artist in every sense of the word. He got his start in film with Sinatra in Contract On Cherry Street. He explains to the audience that he grew up in an Italian home "where we had two figures you looked up to - the Pope and Frank Sinatra."
Davi says, "[Frank Sinatra] sang the kind of music that translates to any nationality and any age." His repertoire of Sinatra's music bears witness to that claim.
He is, as is clear early in the show, a student of Sinatra and the Great American Songbook. He not only talks about "Mr. Sinatra" (just about everyone I've ever met who knew him refers to him as "Mr. Sinatra") but he gives the composers the proper credit and puts the songs in context, telling the audience about the background of the song where appropriate. Thus, we learned that Angel Eyes was recorded (in 1958), just after Sinatra's break-up with Ava Gardner.
The full house at the show was made up of people from their 20s to, well, much older and, as Davi sang, almost no one was still. They embraced the music as if they were embracing old friends, smiling as they nodded along, quietly tapped their toes and, also quietly, mouthed the lyrics. It was a happy crowd indeed.
The performer, too, was happy. The Venetian is built on the site where the Sands, Sinatra's Las Vegas home, stood. "I'm thrilled to be here," Davi said. "It wasn't an easy journey, but it was a hell of a ride."
He added, "Mahler said, 'Music is the closest thing to the absolute.' Doing this makes me feel 25 again."
Among the Sinatra classics he performed were You Make Me Feel So Young, I've Got The World On A String, Nice and Easy, At Long Las Love, A Foggy Day, Come Fly with Me, Luck Be A Lady, Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, Witchcraft, A Summer Wind, and The Best Is Yet To Come.
Thursday night's show was a benefit for the Las Vegas USO. Davi talked about his childhood on Long Island in a family where his grandfather won two Purple Hearts with oak leaf cluster in World War I and his father won a Purple Heart in World War II. He talked, too, of Frank Sinatra's charity and patriotism and of the special Academy Award he given in 1946, when anti-Semitism was on the rise in the United States, for the 10-minute film, The House I Live In. Sinatra had a hit with the title song and Davi's rendition was very moving.
Davi took the time to talk about the 20 musicians backing him. The excellent orchestra, under the musical direction of pianist Randy Waldman, included Emil Richards - who worked with the best in the business, including Frank Sinatra - and drummer Dave Tull who has been touring with Chuck Mangione as lead vocalist and drummer. The wonderful arrangements were the work of Nic. tenBroek. The show was produced by Phil Ramone.
The evening's opening act was comedian Mike Marino, a Jersey guy who personifies the pop culture picture of Italian people from New Jersey. He is very funny and, in a way, represents the kind of vintage comedians you might have seen on that very stage a generation ago. He's an excellent fit with Davi.