The Rat Pack Is Back!

The Rat Pack is Back!Photo by Eric James Miller
The Plaza downtown has a lot to

With dire economic news bombarding us almost every day, nostalgia for the good old days is growing, even here in always-build-it-bigger Las Vegas. Remember those years of double-digit growth in property values? That ever-rising ladder of job opportunities? Well, take a trip down Memory Lane – way down Memory Lane – to the staggering days of the Rat Pack. It’s fun, affordable and just minutes away in Downtown Las Vegas.

The Rat Pack Is Back!” is a tribute show that operates on the premise that Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop have all been sent back from heaven to do their show one more time. The fact that the show plays Downtown – in the Copa Room at the Plaza Hotel – instead of inside a sparkling neon cavern on the Strip is perfect architectural serendipity. When Sinatra used to crash Martin’s or Davis’ shows at the Sands in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Strip was the center of the universe for both locals and visitors. Getting there was easy, parking was convenient, and everything you might want was within easy walking distance. The Sands, alas, is long gone, and now Las Vegas locals like to brag about how long it’s been since they’ve set foot on the Strip. But Downtown is worth a visit if you haven’t been there in a while. It has cleaned itself up and is attractive to tourists again, yet it remains convenient for locals, too – even for Summerlin and Henderson friends trying to see each other on a weeknight. So I suggest you grab a fedora, put on your skinniest black tie or little black dress, and make the journey back in time to sit back with a martini at the hippest, truest lounge act in the world.

Meet the Rat PackPhoto by Eric James Miller
Go ahead. Don’t be shy.

“The Rat Pack Is Back!” has been co-produced and written by Sandy Hackett and Dick Feeney since it began at the Greek Isles in 2002. Both men are veteran Vegas producers with colorful personal histories. Feeney started in show business as a musician touring the country with various lounge acts during the 1970s. He came to Vegas to co-produce “An Evening at La Cage” in 1985 and then followed that success with “Crazy Girls” in 1987. Both shows are still running more than 20 years later. I was amazed to learn that Feeney is also the creator, owner and producer of the real-life Flying ELVI, the skydiving team made famous in the movie “Honeymoon in Vegas,” starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. I’m thinking to myself, “Why doesn’t somebody make a movie about this guy?”

Meet the Rat PackPhoto by Eric James Miller
Nicholas Brooks as Sammy Davis, Jr.
singing “Mr.Bojangles”

Sandy Hackett is no less amazing – and not only because he’s the son of legendary actor and comedian Buddy Hackett. Can you imagine the one-liners that put him in his place in that household every night? Growing up in show business and developing his own razor-sharp wit, Sandy Hackett got to know dozens of famous entertainers. He’s a man with a thousand stories to tell, which is evident on stage every night in his spot-on impersonation of legendary host and comedian Joey Bishop. In fact, Sandy knew Joey Bishop so well growing up that he called him “Uncle,” and when Bishop heard that HBO was going to make a movie about the Rat Pack in the early 1990s, he recommended that Sandy audition for his role. Sandy didn’t get the part, but the idea for “The Rat Pack Is Back!” was born.

The Rat Pack is Back!Photo by Eric James Miller
Robbie Howard, Nicholas Brooks,
Danny Grewen & Sandy Hackett
as Dino, Sammy, Frank & Joey

The singers and actors portraying Frank, Dino and Sammy change from week to week, but they’re all true to their roles in vocal performance. Most of them look the part, too — so much so that if you saw them walking down the street, you’d be tempted to ask them for an autograph. In fact, both Louis Velez and Nicholas Brooks do “Mr. Bojangles” so well that seeing either of their performances will make you feel like it really is 1961 at the Sands. In addition to the permanent Vegas production, “The Rat Pack Is Back” has both a touring company and a company that performs short-run engagements, and movement among the casts is fluid. This is good for the show, keeping the performances fresh and the interplay between the rotating cast members dynamic.

The nine-piece orchestra brings new life to old standards like “New York, New York,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “I’ve Got the World on a String,” among others. If Joey’s one-after-the-other jokes and one-liners don’t cheer you up, wait for the bouncy sing-along songs. Unfortunately, the appearance of a drunk and flirty Marilyn Monroe, a part written by Sandy Hackett specifically for Monroe impersonator Stacey Nicole, ended at the end of 2008 when Nicole left the show to get married. I hope the part will be revived someday, but so far there is no breathless blond ready to wear that gorgeous red evening gown that is probably still hanging backstage.

Tickets are $49.99 with a dinner option. Drinks are extra but they are generously poured and not too terribly overpriced (remember, you’re Downtown at the Plaza). Seating is either at long floor tables, where you get to know your neighbors, or in leather booths, where you can watch the people at the long floor tables having fun and being part of the show.

Top off your blast into the past by swaggering – or staggering – into the Golden Gate after the show (it’s right across the street from the Plaza) to see rare photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge during its construction. You can also play $2 double-deck blackjack in one of the last casinos serving 99-cent shrimp cocktails.

Bonus insider tip: Don’t ruin a perfectly wonderful evening going back in time with the Rat Pack by following it up with a 99-cent shrimp cocktail. You won’t be disappointed by the Kings of Cool in the “Rat Pat Is Back!” but they’d sure be disappointed in you for being such a tool. I can hear Sandy Hackett’s deep baritone channeling Joey Bishop now: “So this tool walks into a bar and orders a 99-cent shrimp cocktail … ”


7 responses on “The Rat Pack Is Back!

  1. I’ve seen the show & was very impressed.
    Great singing, funny jokes and cool clothes !
    Well worth the price of admission.
    It’s a great night for locals & out of town guests to.
    Anybody, young or old, that loves music will enjoy the show.

    Tom C

  2. I’m putting it on my list, too. Your story makes me want to drop everything and head to the Plaza tonight (but skip the 99-cent shrimp cocktail)!

  3. Right on! I was there last November and really enjoyed the show. And the re-furbished downtown. And Marilyn Monroe’s guest appearance. Hope she comes back soon. 🙂

  4. Seen it over the summer and it was great! My uncle plays Dean he was so funny and my second favorite is Frank his voice was amazing. I loved it and not just because my uncle is in the show.

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