Sinatra, London Palladium, London

Still not ready to face the final curtain
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Sinatra is alive and well and crooning just off Oxford Street. Or rather, in this tribute show, Ol' Blue Eyes glides in and out like the godhead of swing, his ghostly image projected on giant mobile screens while a live chorus line shimmies at his feet. This certainly serves as an act of celebrity worship: a kind of resurrection concert with film footage including golden oldies from "New York, New York" to "Fly Me to the Moon". But the evening is also a startlingly experimental hybrid, owing as much to the avant-gardists Forkbeard Fantasy and Simon McBurney as pop videos. It's staged by David Leveaux in collaboration with Sinatra's biographer Bill Zehme, a hi-tech design team and performers who are having a blast, with swish choreography by Stephen Mear and a thrilling big band.

This is 10 times better than the clunking West End bio-musicals of the 1990s. Sinatra's story is told, essentially linearly, from his birth in New Jersey, through his formative sighting of Bing Crosby and his early marriage, to rising stardom, Hollywood, rough patches, and amorous but evanescent relationships with Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow. It ends, of course, in old age with "I did it my way".

What's sassy is there's no ropey dramatic dialogue, just an impressionistic weave of cinematic montage, dance and snippets from interviews by way of a voiceover. All this keeps you busy, concealing the show's vacuous sketchy side. There are cheesy and meaningless scenes and Sinatra's Mafia connections are played down, to say the least. Yet the evening isn't simply a whitewash. On those huge screens, Sinatra is also under the microscope. Every flicker of nerves and insincerity looms large, complicating the portrait.

k.bassett@independent.co.uk

Booking to 7 October, 0870 890 1108

Comments