The Importance Of Being Frank

Tim Connery
Stage D’Or
Bridge House Theatre

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The Importance Of Being Frank

A few years ago, in preparation for reviewing my first ever tribute show, I did some research. The advice I remember included that you need to look something like the artist you are trying to make a living from—no one wants a Blondie tribute act who looks like Demis Roussos—and to everyone else it is fun, but you need to remember to treat it as the job it is.

In The Importance Of Being Frank, it seems Jimmy can only manage the first of those two.

As Charlie, Jimmy’s accompanist points out, fans of Frank Sinatra are all old and their act is running out of audience. The way Jimmy is living, though, he could be the first to go.

His pre-show and onstage drinking is less to do with emulating his hero, who famously demanded a bottle of whisky be put in his dressing room every night, than it is about coping with his self-inflicted miserable circumstances—on his uppers and at the steps of another divorce after more rather sordid philandering.

In this respect, this new play by award-winning writer Tim Connery paints a convincing portrait of a selfish man living in his own reality. For Jimmy, being Frank Sinatra is a calling that he is unable to resist and one that wholeheartedly embraces a misplaced nostalgia for the glamour of a time when men were men and women were ‘broads’.

After five years as accompanist and the butt of every joke in Jimmy’s faux comic schtick, Charlie has had enough and wants a career that will take him further than Jimmy’s dream of a summer season at Butlins. In this aspect, Connery is less successful, the script serving as a 'grumpy old men' outlet with the narrative going over the same ground, mostly without moving it forward.

Between the repetitions, Jimmy and Charlie rehearse ahead of their imminent gig, a retirement party in a decorated scout hut. Here is where Alex Dee lifts the show as Jimmy channelling Frank. He captures the legato and the distinct phrasing that Sinatra had, singing his way through a handful of the Ol’ Blue Eyes’ many hits including “Come Fly With Me” and “It Was a Very Good Year”, and with lines from “That’s Life” “… Each time I find myself Flat on my face I pick myself up and get Back in the race” having particular resonance to Jimmy’s admirable dogged determination or self-sabotaging, quixotic blindness depending on your perspective.

Liam Connery who plays Charlie is a truly skilful keyboard player. His character could be more balanced by writer Tim Connery in order to raise the part above just being Jimmy’s feed, and director Alexander Donald doesn’t do Liam Connery justice in having Charlie’s lines upstaged by Jimmy’s socks.

The Importance Of Being Frank ends as it must with Jimmy giving his “My Way”. It is the song “that celebrates being a douchebag“ like few others do, but thanks to Dee’s performance, although I couldn't warm to Jimmy, there was no sense of satisfaction that the wastrel was facing what looks like his final curtain.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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