“The onstage chemistry pops and fizzes like kosher champagne from a crystal slipper. It’s the great bromance that never was and possibly could never have been.”
One is the classic, the ultimate, crooner of the American songbook. The other is among the most revered and reviled moviemakers in the history of cinema. They are, perhaps, the two greatest icons of New York culture of the last century. Frank Sinatra and Woody Allen, born two decades apart with personas and personalities light years away from one another. Yet they were both married to the same woman. It’s like finding out that Tony Soprano and Frasier Crane have the same mother (Nancy Marchand). What might two such divergent talents have created, had they ever collaborated on a project?
We enter to discover we’re the New York skyline, looking through the window into Allen’s Upper-Lower-East-Westside Manhattan apartment – we’re the Park everyone’s so keen to be looking over. Simon Schatzberger, as Allen, is a confident nebbish, confiding initial concepts for a movie into a dictaphone. The ideas all revolve around a guy who stops loving a girl, falls in love with someone else, only to have the first girl wreak a vengeance so terrible that you might be tempted to observe that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Then comes a loud knocking at the door.
I’m sitting right up at the back. The nesting bats of Patterhoose’s Big Yin have taken me and the techie for one of their own. I hope their coughing doesn’t mean anything too serious. Over my left shoulder is a presence. I glance up and all at once I am Allan Felix in company with the shade of a macho mega-star. Richard Shelton as Sinatra is Sinatra. The same swagger, sophistication, and sorrows. Sinatra’s come to talk to Allen about the woman they once both loved and the allegations she’s making. To emphasise his concerns Sinatra’s bought along a bat, the baseball type.
What follows is a superbly entertaining what-might-have-been. The ups. The downs. The chasing around the apartment. The insecurities. The egos. Writer Bert Tyler-Moore’s pedigree for lampooning luminaries includes ‘Star Stories’ & ‘The Windsors’. Full disclosure I’m a massive fan of both. “Who’s your favourite Beatle?” “Billy! What about shit in bog?!” “‘Aren’t they simply strong, independent women?’ ‘Yeah, witches.’” There are soon-to-be classic zingers aplenty on stage today, but there’s something there that’s missing. Now, I’m not just woke, I got up early, and I reckon what’s missing from this story about… and possibly… is the female perspective. How you get that in a two-hander featuring the two most toxic examples of masculinity is a mystery I don’t care to solve. Me, the bats, and the techie are too busy laughing our asses off.
Both Schatzberger and Shelton have separate EdFringe solo shows showcasing their tributes to Allen and Sinatra. This is a superb collaboration that’s rightly winning plaudits but is yet to draw the punters which is almost certainly about to change. The onstage chemistry pops and fizzes like kosher champagne from a crystal slipper. It’s the great bromance that never was and possibly could never have been. Come for the icons, stay for the magic, leave like you’ve just heard auld blue eyes singing live. Get Your Coats On and go see this now!