Richard Shelton – Sinatra and Me – Live At Zédel

Richard Shelton performed his show Sinatra and Me at Live At Zédel, London.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

Live At Zédel’s summer programming brought class and nostalgia with Richard Shelton returning to the UK and the heart of London’s Piccadilly from his adopted home in LA, with his show Sinatra and Me.

The show has run for five years in LA and sold out at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with additional performances added. There is no doubt the spirit and voice of ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ is in the room.

Shelton’s portrayal of Frank Sinatra in the West End’s Rat Pack Confidential led to him being invited to perform live for Prince Charles and Elton John, before going to LA to literally follow in Sinatra’s footsteps, as well as perform his iconic songs.

For a Wolverhampton boy, Live At Zédel and LA must seem a lifetime away from his humble roots.

He started the evening by urging everyone to “follow their dream” as “our time here is brief, so if you have a dream, pursue it.”

His father wanted to build a house on a hill for his family which he did. His mother died when Shelton was a young boy and he left school at 16, not to pursue a career as a ballet dancer as he would have liked, but followed his father’s wishes to get a ‘proper job’ and enter the hotel business. After another 16 years he finally left the hotel business to follow his performing dream at the age of 32.

Shelton is a consummate professional who clearly knows his subject well and has researched way beyond the call of duty to create an interesting as well as musically polished show.

He took his audience on a compelling journey through Sinatra’s life and career, with wonderful anecdotes along the way, while also charting his own very different life’s journey full of coincidences that culminated in him playing Sinatra.

It cannot be denied – the synchronicities with Sinatra are extraordinary. His voice, moves and mannerisms, and of course his look, all create ‘Sinatra’ .

Early on in the show Shelton changed into a tuxedo, in front of the audience, that once belonged to Sinatra himself. It fits him perfectly as he is the exact same size as the man himself!

He was one of last people to see Sinatra’s final home prior to its demolition, discovering that its internal layout was practically identical to the layout of the house his own father built.

On his own birthday Shelton discovered that his hands and feet fitted identically into Sinatra’s imprints on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’.

Shelton made it clear from the outset that he was not trying to impersonate Sinatra, but hoped that he might “evoke a moment of Sinatra” that we might get a glimpse of “how it was”.

He did indeed succeed, helped enormously by his resemblance to his idol in both looks and sound.

Every song is of course iconic and a winner, from ‘The Lady is a Tramp’, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’, ‘That’s Life’, ‘In the Wee Small Hours’ and ‘Strangers in the Night’ to spine-tingling a cappella renditions of ‘My Foolish Heart’ (as Sinatra used to sing from his balcony to Ava Gardner who broke his heart), ‘One For My Baby’ and ‘You Make Me Feel So Young’, before finishing his Sinatra set with the iconic ‘(Theme From) New York New York’ and an encore, ‘My Way’.

My only reservation was the choice to use backing tracks rather than live musicians – understandable for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but not so good in a cabaret venue such as this one. Even using one or two musicians with tracks would have added much. In Sinatra’s era it was all about live music.

Shelton has met numerous people connected to Sinatra, including his family, often completely unexpectedly. As a result he now works regularly with Sinatra’s own band players and recently recorded his own album An Englishman in Love in LA at Capitol Studios with them, using Sinatra’s own microphone. He finished this concert with the delightful title song from the album.

Shelton has travelled a long way from Wolverhampton and must wake every morning pinching himself to check whether his life is real!

Shelton as Sinatra is astounding. Incredible vocals, a real class act and fascinating to watch. And if you close your eyes ‘Ol Blue Eyes’ lives again in that moment. Truly remarkable.

Catherine Françoise

Readers may also be interested in:

Interview – singer Richard Shelton brings his show Sinatra and Me to Live At Zédel

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