The first time I ever took a real interest in Frank Sinatra was when I was working in magazine publishing, hanging out with a bunch of single ladies – we worked hard and we played hard – think Sex and the City before it was invented. Each Christmas we would endeavour to outdo each other with hip gifts that didn’t break the bank. It was when I was searching for such a gift that I came across my Rat Pack Christmas cd featuring Christmassy standards crooned by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jnr. I bought one for everyone and even myself at the great cost of $2 each. That cd is now one of my personal traditions. Each Christmas, as we decorate the tree the Rat Pack croons our favourite Christmas tunes and my kids love it as much as I do. It wouldn’t be Christmas without Frank, Dean and Sammy. I didn’t grow up with them but I discovered the joy of their talent myself and even played some Frank and Dean at my wedding reception.
Frank Sinatra and Tom Burlinson collided for me on my first wedding anniversary. We were staying at the 5 star hotel we had spent our wedding night at and my husband took me to see Tom Burlinson performing his Sinatra show at the Star Casino after an early dinner at Aria Restaurant. (Those were the days!!) It was a magical show, transporting us all back in time to someplace glamorous – plus I was madly in love – that performance holds a special place in my heart.
So what is it with Tom Burlinson and Frank Sinatra? Why was Frank Sinatra seen as such a hip dude and how come an actor as talented as Tom Burlinson performs in a Sinatra tribute show? The answers lie in their similarities. Just like Sinatra, Burlinson is a complete entertainer who exudes true class but does it all with a twinkle in his eye – it’s old world charm and bucket loads of talent. Vocally, Burlinson nails Sinatra like no other. Sinatra’s own daughter, Tina Sinatra chose Burlinson as the singing voice for the young Sinatra in her 1992 Emmy and Golden Globe award winning mini-series of her father’s life, Sinatra. It’s just not possible to get a better recommendation than that!
Frank Sinatra was the first real teen idol. His persona of bad boy with vulnerability had men wanting to be him and women wanting to tame him. In the world of big swing bands, Sinatra was the first real lead singer – audiences wanted more of him than they did of the band leader/conductor, which is what led him to his incredibly long and successful solo career. His image was one of contrasts – smooth confident playboy against vulnerable, caring charity worker. He liked to spend time with the super stars of his day and was as comfortable with Presidents and Princesses as he was with his drinking buddies and prostitutes. His talent lay with his ability to colloquialise the words and phrasing of his singing and in his often under-estimated vocal range. He was also a good actor, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in From Here to Eternity and a nomination for Best Actor in The Man with the Golden Arm. Add into this mix the mystery of his ‘mob’ connections, good looks and smooth talking and you have a powerful combination. The man was cool with a capital ‘c’.
Tom Burlinson appears to lack the bad boy image somewhat but he makes up for it in sheer talent backed up by his image as the Aussie boy next door (despite the fact he was born in Canada). We first knew Burlinson as an actor, shooting to fame in The Man from Snowy River followed by Phar Lap and we all fell in love with him then. His singing came as a surprise. He had a childhood obsession with Frank Sinatra which led him to audition for the Sinatra mini-series. He didn’t get the part but he was asked to provide the singing voice for a young Sinatra. His career suddenly took on a new direction. Burlinson created Frank – A Life in Song in 1998 which coincided with the death of Sinatra. He has performed versions of this show all over Australia, Canada and even in Sinatra’s home turf of Las Vegas to enormous success – audiences can’t seem to get enough and Burlinson is continually asked to bring his show to festivals and theatres all over the country.
Tom Burlinson is so good at Sinatra because he doesn’t try to be Sinatra. He’s no clone, he remains himself. He is not an impersonator. He sings in the same style with a similar range and understands how to use the orchestra just as Sinatra did. He adds stories about Sinatra and sometimes he adds in Sinatra’s own words or introductions to songs, but it is Burlinson on stage. He is just as entertaining, delivering up the timeless classics that were in Sinatra’s repertoire with the same swagger and joie de vivre (joy of life). When you see Burlinson perform Sinatra it’s like stepping back in time – a time when men wore tuxedos or dinner suits, everyone drank cocktails, the band was an orchestra of incredibly talented musicians and the songs were classic and timeless – destined to continue to attract audiences for generations to come. Thank God that the talented Burlinson is here to keep the Sinatra swing in our lives!
Riverside Theatres is presenting Burlinson’s latest Sinatra offering Sinatra at the Sands which replicates the famous Sinatra album of the same name with some extra hits thrown in for good measure. To celebrate what would have been Sinatra’s 100th birthday this year, they are also presenting a Burlinson-Sinatra Retrospective of award winning films in the lead up to the Sinatra at the Sands performance on September 10. Get your swing on and come see why these guys are such a classy, cool act – trust me, it’s a special night out.