TRP Entertainment, LLC
“The Rat Pack is Back” brings back old-school showbiz and revives a bygone area.
Hey, have you heard that Vegas ain’t what it used to be? These kids with their Cirque du Soleils and their Blue Men and their EDM (Electronic Dance Music) … they wouldn’t know real entertainment if it kicked them in the head. Now Frank … Dean … Sammy … Joey … those were entertainers!
If you or your date has ever said anything remotely resembling this, “The Rat Pack is Back” at the Tuscany Hotel and Casino is where you go. Well, a few EDM party producers probably have some other ideas about where you can go, but don’t listen to them – this idea is nicer.
The tone is set with reversed footage of the implosion of the Sands, as if the Grand Dame were magically coming back together. An announcer bellows “Ladies and gentleman, it’s showtime!” (Imagine a Cirque show starting with that announcement.) Then, to the strains of a classic big band, singer/actors impersonate the stars that made up the “Rat Pack” who took Vegas by storm in the 1950’s.
We start one-on one with comedian Joey Bishop, and a lesson in actual joke-craft. Rather than the meandering story-jokes and observational humor of modern stand-up, perpetual schlub Joey deadpans through setups and punchlines without the need for context. This is a nostalgia act, but Joey works in references to Viagra and the film “Brokeback Mountain.” We haven’t been transported back to their time – these characters are guests in ours.
Next comes Sammy Davis, Jr., quipping on his mixed black/Puerto Rican heritage and conversion to Judaism (“When I move into a neighborhood, EVERYBODY moves out!”). Dean Martin is a lovable drunk, getting progressively more sloshed on martinis as he croons and hits on the ladies in the audience. Marilyn Monroe makes an appearance, cooing and acting high on pills. In a bit that goes uncomfortably long, she gives the “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” lap dance to a lucky birthday boy in the room.
Frank Sinatra’s entry is the piece de resistance. The actor my night looked more like Robert Carlyle, but he got that soothing baritone voice spot on, cool as a cucumber as he casually threatens the lives of his cast mates. Frank demands gentlemanly behavior from his ribald crew, but it’s clear he doesn’t mean a word of it.
See, there’s a dark side to this show – casual misogyny, homophobia, racism, and discrimination based on mental illness. I know a joke when I hear one, but these are recreations of men who were a product of their time, regressive attitudes and all. Some audience members may find this quaint and amusing at best, offensive at worst. Others – the subset who sees political correctness as America’s biggest problem – may see such out-of-time callousness as part and parcel of a “simpler, better era.” Engage your neighbor in conversation with care …
If you didn’t come to Vegas to write cultural criticism, however, you’re left with rousing renditions of standards like “Mr. Bojangles,” “Come Fly With me,” “I’ve Got the World On a String,” “Luck be a Lady,” “My Way,” and “New York, New York.” Some of the songs are truncated (especially the ones sung by Sammy). Dean occasionally offers a raunchy parody song – “Brassiere” instead of “Brazil”; “When she says ‘What the hell, let’s go get a motel,’ that’s amore.”
Old-timey slang gets dropped – when was the last time you heard breasts referred to as “bazooms?” A lot of dress-up gets played, including – Sammy as the Lone Ranger; Dean as a feather-wearing Tonto, complete with a coat hanger and toilet plunger for a bow and arrow; Joey as a Geisha girl with a Japanese accent played for laughs. Ooooh, these boys know how to party! …. Right?
VERDICT: “The Rat Pack is Back” at the Tuscany Hotel and Casino is a polarizing show. If you have a thing for old-school showbiz and relics of a bygone area (the good and the bad), you’ll love it. If you think it’s okay that Vegas has moved on from the Rat Pack and you like PC and a good electronic beat … well, the present is out here waiting for you.