Russo Brings The Rat Pack to Venice Theatre

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY JUL 8, 2016

The 4th Annual 2016 Summer Cabaret Festival began its near month-long run last night on the Pinkerton Stage with Venice Theatre veteran Syreeta Banks belting Broadway favorites and genre-hopping from Gospel to pop to rock to jazz as she wailed through her repertoire. Banks returns tonight for a second show at 8pm before passing the festival baton to John Russo, who returns to Venice Theatre with his Rat Pack Tribute show running Sat. and Sun. “The opportunity to do cabaret is a wonderful thing,” says Russo. “It’s a more intimate space and the energy at Venice Theatre is very positive—the audiences are great.”

Regulars of the Starlite Room in Sarasota may recognize Russo from his Monday night performances at the Broadway Bar, where the singer can be found winding his way through nonstop three-hour sets of Rat Pack classics from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Audiences will get a “taste” at the festival, says Russo, who trimmed the show to a pair of 45-minute sets divided by a brief intermission. Saturday he’ll begin with a Sinatra set and close with Martin, he says, but Sunday, “because it’s a more mellow day, I’ll start with Dean.”

A high-energy show in the Vegas style, Russo is not an impersonator but an emulator—a performer both paying homage and seeking to recapture, not recreate. He doesn’t imitate voices and audiences won’t see him affecting famous Sinatra idiosyncrasies onstage. “I’m more concerned with the music and the songs and delivering them in the style of a Vegas performer,” he says. The audience isn’t there just to watch Russo; he’d rather they dance. “I consider that a compliment,” he says. “That’s the greatest compliment to me, when people get up and dance.”

A self-professed child of “chrome and big cars” with an affection for “a simpler time with straightforward music,” those similarly inclined can hop in Russo’s musical time machine and dance along to Rat Pack favorites such as “Summer Wind,” “Anything Goes” and “Night and Day” this Sat. Jul. 9 at 8pm and Sun. Jul. 10 at 2pm on Venice Theatre’s Pinkerton Stage.

The 2016 Summer Cabaret Festival continues the following weekend with performances from Kristofer Geddie, Robin presents Barbra & Frank @ the Movies and Dorian and the Furniture. Ticket prices and more information can be found at the Venice Theatre website below.

Pictured: John Russo. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Venice Theatre Summer Cabaret Festival Line-up

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