Dean Martin and Friends (Christmas Special)

The Fringe is a place for new discoveries – the freshest, young talent rubbing shoulders with the world’s best at their craft. This is what make Fringe shows some of the most exciting and challenging in the world. It’s also what makes Dean Martin and Friends a surprising find, because there’s little exciting and challenging about this show.

Both male leads are creditable sound-a-likes and the songs are, naturally, toe-tapping.

The central conceit is a Noises Off-style exploration of the titular Christmas special, blending the antics in front of camera with snapshots of Dino and Frank Sinatra backstage; two old showbiz warhorses testily snapping at each other over endless glasses of scotch. Meanwhile, producers panic, dancers bicker and cues are missed.

Were this concept followed through, it’d be an interesting show, but sadly there’s too little development of the backstage moments. Most of what’s included is the same empty banter seen in front of the camera that, while characteristic of the Rat Pack, offers little comedy and less insight into the lives of these showbiz icons in the twilight of their career. Even more confusingly, this under-emphasis on script is counterbalanced by an overabundance of cast, including one person whose sole job is to silently push a fake camera around the theatre, obscuring the action on stage.

The result is a show which feels like a thinly-veiled excuse to roll out the same old swinging standards which, to be fair, is where the performers’ strengths really lie. Both male leads are creditable sound-a-likes and the songs are, naturally, toe-tapping, staying with you by their own virtue. But if you’re there for the music, you might be better served somewhere where the drinks and the seats are less expensive.

The music of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra will always have its own appeal and if you’re after more of the same with a Christmas ribbon on it then go ahead. But as a standalone show, to paraphrase the Rat Pack’s forebear Nat King Cole, it’s forgettable.

Reviews by Tom King

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In this new Fringe premiere we join Dean Martin as he records his Christmas TV Special. You are invited to experience the excitement of the TV studio with the production crew, vintage cameras, the live announcer, the nervous dancers and Dino introducing Frank Sinatra and star guests as they bring back the glitter of a lavish national TV show with memorable hits and festive delights. But away from the cameras we eavesdrop backstage on two legends reflecting on their past and at this stage in their careers what is left to do?