Interview with The Rat Pack
Ahead of their performance on the 26-28 April, we caught up with the trio that has got everyone talking! Starring in The Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas; Garrett Phillips (Frank Sinatra), Nigel Casey (Dean Martin) and David Hayes (Sammy Davis Jr).
What can audiences expect from the show?
David: It’s a fantastic show, recreating history at every performance and bringing heaven to every theatre we play.
Nigel: I couldn’t agree more. In terms of the content, it’s a lot of what the Rat Pack used to do back in the 60s and it’s such a nostalgic show. We have a fantastic 12-piece live band on stage and beautiful back-up girls who don’t just sing and look wonderful, they also dance brilliantly. And we try our darndest to get as close as we can to Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin. You see it in the people’s faces in the audience that they’re really reliving that time and we get a lot of fans from that era who love the music coming to see the show as well as younger people who have since discovered it. Everyone has a really good time.
How do you account for its popularity on both sides of the Atlantic?
David: It’s the best Rat Pack show, not just in the UK and America but anywhere in the world. What you’re getting here is a top-quality show from production to choreography, musical arrangements, the big band on stage, the girls playing The Burelli Sisters and now we have Ella Fitzgerald in it too. There’s nothing else like this in the world.
Nigel: I’ve been part of many other Rat Pack and swing shows and I have to say it’s an absolute joy to do this one. It really is the best.
Garrett, as a newbie to the show are you surprised by how enthusiastic audiences are?
Garrett: Absolutely. It’s like a trip down memory lane and these guys [David and Nigel] are stalwarts who have given me help and confidence. I’m a total debutante and it’s a joy to start with this cast and this production. You can feel the love from the crowd for the Cole Porter songs, the Jimmy Van Heusen music and all the other greats. You feel it immediately and it’s also wonderful to have a good chemistry with the guys on the stage.
What’s the most important thing for you to nail about Frank, Dean and Sammy?
Garrett: For me it’s about trying to embody Sinatra’s personality rather than just doing an impersonation. I try to embody him as a character and an actor in terms of his confidence and his command of the stage. Vocally, of course I try to emulate his phrasing etc and the fact I can do that with my own voice, to arrive at that same geography, is a happy coincidence. The stars have aligned for me with this role.
Nigel: The energy is terribly important, whether it’s Frank, Dean or Sammy. With Dean in particular I guess to go-to thing is playing drunk, although there’s a line in the show which Dean used himself which goes “If I was half as drunk as you think I am I’d have been dead ten years ago”. Apparently he wasn’t drunk but he played it awfully well. It was an endearing, charming part of his act. Another terribly important thing to capture is the friendship. They were massive superstars back in the day – film stars, pop stars – but they were friends and that’s the reason their Vegas shows worked so well. The friendship and the fun they had is something the crowd feels when they see the show and we feel them going along with us. It’s a joy to do every night.
David: With Sammy it’s about capturing the spirit and the essence of him as a performer because that’s really what he was – he was a variety performer. It’s about his oneness with the crowd and being able to come out and please them. And as Nigel says, it’s all about the chemistry between the three guys. We have done more Rat Pack shows than the originals because they had their own careers going, but when they were all together something magical happened. It’s the same with us. When we’re all on stage together it’s really special, whether it’s during Birth Of The Blues or Style or when it’s Garrett and Nigel as Frank and Dean doing The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else, which I think is really magical.
From researching the show, what have you most been surprised or intrigued to learn about them?
Garrett: One thing I didn’t know about Frank is that he had a scar on the left side of his face, near his ear, from when he was born. It was a forceps birth and his eardrum was perforated, but magically he could still sing.
Nigel: We watched a heck of a lot of footage and read the books. With Dean I think one of his daughters said “He was a wonderful man but a terrible father”, but I think they all were because they were so wrapped up in show business. It’s a joy to play someone who was so much fun. He was a terribly charismatic man, charming and endearing. When I listen to Dean Martin’s records I can almost hear him smiling as he’s singing.
David: Our director Mitch Sebastian told me that Frank and Sammy’s friendship came even before Frank and Dean’s, which I didn’t know. They mixed together because of the struggles they had and, from reading the books about all of them, I saw that Frank wanted to create a world, Sammy wanted to fit into that world and [laughs] Dean could not care less about that world.
What’s your favourite song to sing in the show and why?
Garrett: Fallin In Love Again is lovely and What Kind Of Fool Am I. They’re beautiful songs. I’d be tempted to pick My Way, of course, because it’s the one at the end of the show but I do like Angel Eyes. Different songs reach different people. My brother was at one of the shows and he said there was a big geezer beside him crying during one of the numbers.
Nigel: Oh wow, that’s such a difficult one. There are so many great songs. I like all the other guys’ songs, actually. But a Dean Martin song? I love the duet Dean does with Frank, The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else, but they’re all classics.
David: I love The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else too as well as Angel Eyes, but I honestly can’t pick a Sammy favourite.
What does bringing Ella Fitzgerald into the show add to it?
David: It’s like a wonderful surprise, just like you don’t expect to see The Burelli Sisters when they first appear in the first act. The show is so well thought-out. It’s not just ‘Let’s get these three guys to do all these songs’, it’s layered, and it gives each performer time to establish who they are. You see Frank first, then Sammy, then Dean and before you see Dean you see these lovely ladies. Then now you get Ella in act two and it’s another surprise and a lovely addition.
Garrett: Because of Ella’s presence act two is like a whole new show.
David: It’s like it goes into overdrive.
Garrett: And the vocal colour Nicola Emmanuelle brings to it is just amazing. Her phrasing is so on-point. She nails it, she looks like her, she’s bubbly and she’s fun.
David: She’s effortless and when she first sings it’s like ‘Woah!’
The Rat Pack were famous party animals. What are your own post-show rituals?
David: [Laughs] We have some milk and cookies.
Nigel: This might be terribly disappointing to admit, but this must be the only three Rat Pack guys where none of us drink or smoke.
Garrett: We are, in real life, a no-alcohol Rat Pack.
Do you think they’d get away with the near-the-knuckle banter if they were performing today?
Garrett: I don’t think so, but it’s indicative of how it was at the time.
Nigel: And the guys were holding a mirror up to attitudes of that time and unfortunately not that much has changed and I think it’s good to hold up a mirror sometimes.
What are you most looking forward to about taking The Rat Pack show on the road?
Garrett: It’ll be great to meet different audiences. Sometimes in the West End by the time we get out of the theatre the shutters are down and everyone has disappeared into the London night. When we did a nine-day mini-tour before the West End people would come to the stage door and give you such great feedback on a personal level rather than just posting bits on social media.
David: Just bringing happiness to people around the country. That’s what it’s all about.
Nigel: There are so many wonderful cities and towns we’ll be going to and we get a licence to have fun on stage. To go on the road with this party is going to be a joy.
What’s the one thing you have to have in your dressing room when you’re on tour?
Nigel: [Laughs] At least two of The Burelli Sisters.
Garrett: I don’t have any riders at all, except a big amount of baby wipes to get rid of the make-up.
David: Just to have a dressing room is good!
Don’t miss on The Boys, The Burelli’s and Ella Fitzgerald when they come to Blackpool’s Grand Theatre from the 26-28 April in The Rat Pack – Live From Las Vegas. Tickets are availble on our website by clicking here or call our Box Office on 01253 290190.