INTERVIEW: Richard Shelton on Sinatra And Me, coming to Eastwood Park

Following his ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ West End nominated performance as Frank Sinatra in RAT PACK and his 5-star, sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival for 2 years running, Richard Shelton returns to the UK with his hit LA show that looks behind the iconic blue eyes of Frank Sinatra whilst still serving up his timeless hits. Richard kindly spared us some time in his busy schedule to chat about his hit show.

What we can expect from the show? 

It’s a show about hope – about how short life is and how important it is to try for your dreams, whatever they may be. I was 50 when I plucked up the courage to go pack my knapsack of dreams and move to Los Angeles. The show looks at what inspired me and how it links my life with Frank Sinatra and the incredible synchronicity that links our lives. I was nominated ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ for portraying Frank Sinatra in the hard hitting drama ‘Rat Pack Confidential’ in London’s West End and my interest in him comes from an actors perspective – what make him tick, how his mercurial personality made him the herculean icon he was. And of course the wonderful music. During the show, I go deep behind Sinatra’s blue eyes and evoke what is might have been like to spend an hour with him. I also explain how Sinatra’s tuxedo literally walked into my life – https://vimeo.com/155748882 and how I was one of the last people inside his last home before it was demolished by fluke.

It spills into a new drama I’m bringing to this year’s Edinburgh Festival, ‘Sinatra: RAW’ which imagines Frank Sinatra at his last intimate gig in Palm Springs before his retirement. The air is electric and people jostle for position. He drinks ‘One For My Baby’ too many and starts to reminisce. But things take an unexpected turn. This is the 2am Sinatra you dream of meeting: Dangerous. Unpredictable. Startling. Brilliant. He addresses his accusers on subjects ranging from his alleged Mafia connections, his womanising, to his famed hatred of the press. And in-between, he sings in that smoky midnight voice on subjects from lost love to getting even! Songs include ‘One For My Baby’, ‘My Way’, ‘I’m a Fool to Want You’, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ and a haunting acapella version of ‘My Foolish Heart’ which he sang to Ava Gardner from his hotel balcony at night in her bungalow below – true story!

What songs get the biggest reaction? 

‘Angel Eyes’ – I evoke Sinatra’s classic performance when he took on the persona of a drunk – it’s quite heart-breaking and very moving. And ‘That’s Life’ – it’s an anthem of being knocked back and picking yourself up again. Everyone can identify with it.

What’s coming up next year? Where else are you touring?

Right after the festival I have a show with the 72-piece Doha Philharmonic Orchestra in Qatar. In Spring 2019, I’m going on a 2 months tour to South Africa and New Zealand.

Why do you think Sinatra’s music still has such an enduring appeal?

Frank Sinatra was arguably the worlds best story teller through a song. When he sang of sadness he’d take you right there into the wee small hours with him. Or when he sang about ‘Flying to the Moon’ you soared up there too. He had an intuitive understanding of the lyrics which for him, came first, and through the words, he told a story. He also sang with attitude – you got the impression he couldn’t give a damn if you liked him or not which made him all the more appealing. And having one of the most beautiful voices ever known also helps.

How long has it taken for you to perfect your portrayal of Frank Sinatra?

About 17 years. I’m still learning.

Tell us what we can expect from the show?

Story telling, music and little known facts about Sinatra. I also perform songs from my  new album ‘Lost and Found’ which was recorded at Capitol Studios in LA alongside Sinatra’s band mates and in his studio using his microphone. The album comprises original big band arrangements including ‘An Englishman in Love in LA’ and ‘Sinatra and Me’ and jazz inspired arrangements of pop classics including, ‘It’s Not Unusual’ and ‘Oh, What a Night (Dec ’63)’’ which I perform as a haunting ballad. Sounds crazy, but it really works!

Do you find audiences differ as you travel around the country?

Audiences do differ but the one thing they have in common is a love of Sinatra and the music of that era. It’s timeless.

You can catch Richard at the Fringe in SINATRA:RAW details here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/sinatra-raw

and at Eastwood Park in Sinatra and Me details/tickets here: https://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/article/9588/Sinatra-and-Me