A tall audience member unintentionally obscured my centre-stage view of Tom Burlinson at the Festival Theatre last night, but the clear and unmistakable voice of Frank Sinatra was the thing – and Burlinson’s polished use of the whole stage ensured everyone could appreciate the full professionalism of his performance.
Burlinson made it clear at the outset that his intention wasn’t to impersonate Sinatra but to “be faithful to his distinctive musical expression and his performance skills”.
Since 1991, when he was first asked (by the Sinatra family) to provide the voice of the legendary singer in a TV mini-series, Burlinson has been honing the skills of phrasing, timing and intimacy with the audience that he has brought with such effect to Adelaide for this year’s Cabaret Festival.
Sinatra appeared at The Sands Casino in Las Vegas in 1966 and the show was recorded as a live album. It must have been an unforgettable performance for those who were there, as it also featured Count Basie’s big band and the musical arrangements of Quincy Jones.
Burlinson has been able to re-create something of the thrill of that event with this show, as he brings with him a powerful 16-piece band (14 of whom, in this performance, were superb local musicians) and his own skillful musical director.
Opening strongly with “Come Fly with Me”, he moved effortlessly through songs that feature on the album, changing the mood to reflective for “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” and “September of My Years”, and finishing the first half strongly with “My Kind of Town”.
The songs are interspersed with a few anecdotes and references to Sinatra’s performance, but the show’s pace is never slowed or interrupted.
In the second half, Burlinson lived up to his promise of showering us with Sinatra classics, opening and closing with the dynamic and energetic “New York, New York” and ensuring that other essential Sinatra hits, such as “Strangers in the Night” and of course “My Way” were included to send everyone home satisfied.
Most impressively, he also took requests from the audience to sing unaccompanied and chose to deliver “Old Man River” in the style of Sinatra, which gave rise to huge waves of enthusiastic applause.
If you are a Sinatra fan, or just an enthusiast for swing music delivered with passion, musical skill and charisma, Burlinson’s show is for you. His strong and confident delivery, backed by the powerful sound of the big band, brought this audience to its feet at the end, applauding with pure delight.
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival season of Tom Burlinson Performs Sinatra at the Sands has now ended.
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