The Pack is Back | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Pack is Back 

Piper's Alley

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THE PACK IS BACK, at Piper's Alley. In the nine months since its low-key debut at the late Jazz Buffet, this celebrity-cloning salute to the Rat Pack--Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin--has evolved big. Two impersonators have been replaced (I miss Kenny Davis's slinky Sammy), but Tony Ocean continues to capture the laid-back Martin. The action--Sinatra reunites with his deceased drinking-singing buddies--takes place in a mock-up of a Vegas casino palace; Marc Shellist's state-of-the-art lighting splashes color on walls and patrons. In addition, heavenly hosts arrive to play the celestial "Upstairs Room": backed up by the four Solid Gold Dancers, Frank Pisani incarnates Jimmy Durante, Liberace, and God as George Burns, while warm-up comic Mark Fenske doubles as the ever-obnoxious Jerry Lewis.

What remains constant--and will be catnip for true believers and nostalgia lovers--is the show's fully felt re-creation of these pop idols' greatest hits, as well as the mutual respect and self-deprecating byplay that kept these showbiz icons regular guys whenever they shared a stage. Though Ron Hawking resembles Joe Piscopo more than the Chairman of the Board, he croons "My Way" and "Young at Heart" as if time had stopped. An astonishing Davis look-alike, Lonnie Parlor milks every sentimental drop from "Mr. Bojangles," and he sweetens "Candy Man" to perfection. Busily working the house, Ocean's Martin ("Old Red Eyes") brings a loping, staggering grace to such bibulous ballads as "Volare" and "That's Amore."

--Lawrence Bommer


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