A one-man show by Richard Shelton, Sinatra: RAW is a nostalgic first-person biographical concert. Shelton poses as Sinatra at one of his final performances in Palm Springs’ Purple Room in 1971. As the shadows grow longer and the bottle of Jack gets emptier, Sinatra reminisces about more dark and polemical parts of his 30-year long career. Songs are a mere background for a powerful storytelling by Shelton.
Minimalist and subdued, the show has an intimate feel that would be perfect for a cabaret or jazz bar stage. In Cadogan Hall, it loses bit of its charm, though the audience meets the performance warmly. Shelton demonstrates that he lives in a character, interacting with the audience on numerous occasions.
His Sinatra is bitter yet energetic, ready to retire yet still full of fight. Retelling the stories from his past, Shelton sheds the light on different episodes of singer’s career. From the early days as a singing waiter to the long nights in the studio and crazy love drama with Eva Gardner, there is a bit of everything on stage. Emotionally raw yet ironic, the man comes to life as a passionate personality with strong principals and good sense of humour. We want to believe him and stay there with him, listening on and on to his abrupt but enchanting stories.
The only accompaniment thought the performance is a live piano, though some of the songs are performed a cappella. Shelton is not trying to simply recreate Sinatra’s manner but also to imagine his set of mind at this period of time. He presents rawer versions of the well-known hits of his, such as That’s Life or One for My Baby.
The final part of show becomes more of a concert, with Shelton performing a few big hits of Sinatras in row and taking requests from the audience. He breaks the fourth wall and steps out of the character, demonstrating how well he mastered the accent and demeanour of Frank.
If you love Sinatra or curious to learn more about his life and career, don’t miss Sinatra: RAW on its UK tour. Shelton is coming back for a few performances in London with a band too, which should be a real treat. A great night out and an insightful evening with Frank himself.