Photo Diva: The Rat Pack Returns To The Sahara

Frank (David DeCosta) opens the only Rat Pack tribute show on the Strip
Frank (David DeCosta) opens the only
Rat Pack tribute show on the Strip

When my friends told me back in November about a new Rat Pack tribute show on the Strip I have to admit that I was feigning enthusiasm because, while I’m no spring chicken, the mid-century celebrity foursome was a little before my time but said that I would review the show. I mean, c’mon, we already have Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop haunting Las Vegas regularly at the longstanding The Rat Pack Is Back show, now in it’s 11th year and playing at Downtown Las Vegas’ Plaza Hotel and Casino for those who want to wax nostalgic of those vintage Vegas days…why do we need another?

Well, let me tell you…

James D’Arrigo — whom I’ve mentioned in previous columns and is one of the premier sax players in town — got signed on to play in the band of Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show Shadows In The Desert playing in the Sahara Hotel and Casino’s Congo Room. From the very first rehearsal James, a seasoned Vegas musician/performer, was so excited about this show that it seems nearly every time I saw or talked to him in the last two months he would be enthusiastically telling me about how the show was going and that I “must” see and review the show. So after a little shuffling and clearing of my calendar we finally made it to see the show.

Sammy Davis Jr. (played by Doug Starks) performs Mr. Bojangles.
Sammy Davis Jr. (played by Doug Starks)
performs Mr. Bojangles.

So last Tuesday we braved the rush hour traffic and the pre-New Years Eve herd of tourists and headed to the Sahara Hotel to see the new show in the Congo Room. After the long walk through the entire casino, the entire NASCAR Experience area, up an escalator and past where the buffet used to be we finally get to the doors of the Congo Room where well-groomed tux wearing gentlemen escorted us to “better seats” up front and along the side of the stage.

What’s nice about seeing a vintage Vegas style show like Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack in the historical Congo Room is that, well, since the lighting, staging and audio systems are all fairly old school it all becomes part of the overall experience but unfortunately those elements are aimed for those sitting in front of the stage and not for those sitting in the “better seats” along the side so we missed some elements of the show that would have made it an even better experience than it was. For example, the opening of the show is a video of various vintage Vegas venues with a voiceover by God, er, um, Sandy’s dad, Buddy Hackett, that I was unable to see from my seat so I missed out on the setup which is that God is allowing Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey to return for one last hurrah on Earth.

So even though our seats were less than ideal this show is incredibly delightful and nearly flawless. It’s really no wonder as this show has been a near decade long labor of love for Sandy Hackett and his lovely and talented bride, Lisa Dawn Miller (daughter of composer Ron Miller and plays Frank’s one love in the show) who together have brought a special slice of the vintage Vegas show business back to life with authenticity, successfully capturing not only the style and grace of the music performed by the Rat Pack (with a focus on the Miller penned masterpieces of music) but also the corny wit and camaraderie of unconventional mid-century friendships.

Joey Bishop (played by Sandy Hackett) and Dean Martin (played by Tony Basile) perform on the infamous Congo Room stage at the Sahara Hotel.
Joey Bishop (played by Sandy Hackett)
and Dean Martin (played by Tony Basile) perform on the
infamous Congo Room stage at the Sahara Hotel.

Sure, Dean Martin (played by Tony Basile) sings That’s Amore, Sammy Davis Jr. (played by Doug Starks) sings and dances to Mr Bojangles, Frank Sinatra (played by David DeCosta) sings My Way and Joey Bishop (played by Sandy Hackett) orchestrates both the scripted and unscripted schtick (some of which is a bit off-color) between the songs this isn’t what makes this show work (although they are all brilliant performers). What makes this show work better than any other Rat Pack tribute I’ve ever seen is that these very talented impersonators capture the real emotion, love and camaraderie between these four guys in the most subtle way that will transport you to that special time when Vegas was young.

Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show is well worth the effort to get to the theater at the back of the Sahara property and suitable to most showgoers but do try to get seats facing the front of the stage. One final note: the cast was kind enough to sit down for a video interview after the show and shared generously with me their thoughts on the show and why you should come down and experience the Rat Pack for yourselves. Click here to connect to my new YouTube channel for a highlight video and the full interview in three parts.

Lastly, if you are a fellow Vegas local girl looking to meet and network with some of the other fabulous ladies in town I’m hosting my first Diva Tweetup at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar in Town Square on January 14th. This has turned into a fairly major event including a raffle with amazing prizes. If you want more info here’s a link to a Facebook invitation or email me. If it goes well I’ll plan more tweetups at different locations but one step at a time.


8 responses on “Photo Diva: The Rat Pack Returns To The Sahara

  1. Interesting review — I might have skipped this show, otherwise. Loved the video interview, though your camera person needs a steadying hand, yes? Do more of video interviews — they bring a story to life.

  2. Thanks for the comments Diane. This show really deserves to be seen and experienced. As far as the video is concerned, it was an experiment with my hubby’s new pocket video camera that I got him for Christmas so the quality isn’t the best but, you are right, video interviews do bring the story to life so I hope to do more of them. I’ll just bring the better camera and tripod next time. 🙂

  3. Do not miss this show!

    I went to the original show by Sandy Hackett & the gang. I see in the review that the beginning movie voiced by Buddy Hackett is still being used, which is a bit corny, but fun. When I saw the show, Buddy had only just passed away.

    I will gladly come to see the show in August, when I’m in town for a convention, and bring all those who are coming with me as well.

  4. Oh, you saw the old show which was very good but Sandy Hackett has reworked the show to be even better than it ever was. I have seen the revamped show twice now and plan to see it again once it moves to the big showroom at the Sahara in March.

    I highly recommend seeing the show with your friends/colleagues when you come to Vegas for a visit in August. Be sure to stick around for the meet & greet afterward and tell them Photo Diva sent you!

    ‘SANDY HACKETT’S RAT PACK SHOW’ set to launch the only 50th ANNIVERSARY RAT PACK TOUR as it hits the road under an exclusive NEW PARTNERSHIP with NEW YORK CITY’S OFF BROADWAY BOOKING (OBB NYC)

    Marking a half century since the original Rat Pack’s legendary Las Vegas performances at The Sands, Hackett’s classic show also runs nightly in the Sahara Hotel’s Main Showroom at 5 P.M.

    Congratulations to Sandy Hackett, Lisa Dawn Miller and the rest of the cast and crew!

  6. Sandy Hackett wasn’t performing this evening as Joey Bishop, but it was still a great show. High energy, great blend of old Rat Pack comedy themes with current events. Lots of old standards — a perfect show.


  7. Isn’t it a special show!!! So glad you went to see it! I haven’t seen it in the big room yet and I hope to soon!

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