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The Rat Pack Lounge

The Round Barn Theatre comes to Life Again with
Sinatra and the Boys Returning from the Dead

 

Long before the internet, social media, and memes, there was this souvenir postcard with a man known as the Chairman of the Board looking over his shoulder at you. The caption read, "This is Frank's world. We just live in it."

Frank Sinatra and his buddies, guys like Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., were collectively known as the Rat Pack. We knew them and their songs through the radio, TV, and the movies. They didn't create trends. They were above trends.

Frank's World comes to life again in "The Rat Pack," created and conceived by Mitch Sebastian, the opening show as the new season comes to life at the Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres in Nappanee.

The show depicts Frank, Dean, and Sammy, who have gone on to their much deserved reward, but evidently they've got some unfinished business back on earth -- an unfulfilled promise to take care of before they can truly rest in peace!

Amber Burgess, Artistic Director for the Round Barn Theatre, is also directing this, the first production of the 2018 season. It's been almost three months since the last season ended, but Burgess, who has been busy with auditions, meetings, and planning for the months ahead, said, "First of all, it doesn't feel like the winter ever existed. We never stopped working. I can't believe how fast time goes."

According to Burgess the upcoming season is especially exciting. "Everything is so uplifting this year, and this show in particular. I keep discovering new things about it."

Typically the Round Barn season begins with what's known as a Juke Box Musical, a show featuring popular hits, often golden oldies. But this show is more about an era, and the music has assumed a near mythic quality.

"There are a lot of differences," she said. "It's so jazzy. We're going to have a jazz combo, piano, bass and percussionist. This is the Great American Songbook. These standards drive our whole culture."

The script, Burgess said, has grown on her and the cast. "I thought that this'll be a nice show. But the second and third time I read it I began to realize just how funny this show is. It's not just layering of plot on top of popular. The script tells a story beyond the Rat Pack. There are so many jokes their based on Rat Pack banter, self-deprecating, so funny."

Putting music and words together has been the key. "What we're discovering in the rehearsal process is just incredible. There are moments that are incredibly touching. I wasn't expecting this when I read this funny script. I thought it would be fun, but we found so many touching moments. During the first read-through some of us got misty-eyed."

Burgess believes that younger people will discover that the music is timeless. And more than that, "These guys embodied a 'I'm going to live until I die' lifestyle. It's very rock n roll. It's about living life to the fullest. Younger people will see something in common with contemporary music. And this sound has made such a huge comeback over the last couple of years, with singers like Amy Winehouse and Adele. Everyone will recognize something of themselves in these songs."

Finding the right cast was crucial "They don't need to be impersonators, disembodied spirits of the characters, but they have to have a certain quality. It was hard to find actors who not only had the right qualities individually but worked well together." The show stars Greg Matzker, Randa Meierhenry, Max Mattox, Bradley Keipier and Jake DuVall-Early.

That's because the Rat Pack worked together all the time. "All of them hosted variety shows. They were in films together. They were everywhere. And there was this style of banter they shared, putting each other down, building each other up. It's so rare. I had to find performers that had that quality." One result of that, she said, is that "Our rehearsals are very jovial." Or call the box office at (800) 800-4942 The Rat Pack Lounge is by James Hindman and Ray Roderick. Musical Arrangements by John Glaudini, produced by special arrangement with Steel Springs Stage Rights.