Frank Sinatra Jr. and Lorna Luft in Tribute Concerts at L.I.’s Tilles Center
By: Ellis Nassour
The holiday season on Long Island jump starts this month with two tuneful shows from extraordinary performers with legendary lineage. L.I. University’s Tiles Center for the Performing Arts in Brookville, the area’s premier concert hall, headlines Frank Sinatra Jr. and orchestra on November 14 at 8 P.M. Lorna Luft performs two shows on November 20 at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. Both will be in the intimate Hillwood Recital Hall.
Frank Sinatra, Jr.‘s Sinatra Sings Sinatra: As I Remember It, of course, pays homage to his father, Ole Blue Eyes, "the singer, the man, the father, and the music that defines the Sinatra legend." Jr., who for years also music directed his father’s concerts, has the rare perspective of being one of the greatest authorities on Sinatra and his music. He not only conducts but sings in a warm style eerily reminiscent of Sr.
In this centennial celebration with orchestra and a unique multimedia presentation of archival video and photos, Jr. delivers first-hand "recollections of life onstage and off ."
"It’s been said many times," he says, "that when you concentrate on the legend, you lose the person. When I first assembled the original tour, I thought it was high time to humanize this iconic, lofty personage and remember the person, the red-blooded human being, my sisters and I loved and who loved us."
By his early teens, Jr. was performing in clubs and by 19 he became a band vocalist. He worked closely with Duke Ellington. After learning the music business inside out, he spent several years on the road – performing in 47 states and 30 countries. He’s guestsed on numerous TV shows, including a stint hosting his own summer replacement show. He and his band followed in his Dad’s footsteps lighting up Vegas casino marquees.
Tunes you can expect are "Strangers in the Night, "Come Fly with Me," and, of course, the later classics the effervescent "New York, New York" and the poignant "My Way." Jr. will be backed by many musicians who played on Sr..concerts and recordings.
New Jersey-born Sr. is one of the 20th Century most influential artists. As a recording artist, he’s one of the best-selling of all time with over150-million albums sold worldwide. His birthday anniversary is December 12.
Lorna Luft’s concerts, part of the Center’s Club T cabaret series, executive produced by Jack Globenfelt, will encompass tunes from the American Songbook and memories of her mother, Judy Garland via archival photos and video. Music directing will be Colin Freeman [Luft’s husband of 19 years].
Her career has encompassed virtually every arena of entertainment. She’s performed worldwide and is also a stage, film, and TV actress, best-selling author, recording artist, and Emmy-nominated producer.
Born to legendary entertainer Judy Garland and producer Sid Luft, and half-sister of Liza Minnelli, Luft made her debut on The Judy Garland Show at age 11. A more than memorable moment is when Mama embraces her daughter and, reaching deep into her heart, sings "Lorna," specially written by longtime family friend, the legendary Johnny Mercer.
Losing her mother at 16 was a devastating blow. "But Mama’s never gone away," she explains, "and she’ll always be with me. When you lose a parent at any age, it’s life changing, but it was particularly tough as a teenager." Luft is blunt about her years segueing into adulthood. "I was living here, and there was Studio 54, where I became a regular. I dyed my hair purple and sang with Debbie Harry."
She made her solo debut in Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, "sharing billing with Wanda, the Diving Horse."
At 16, she shared the bill with Garland on Broaway in a fabled month-long engagement at the Palace. By 19, she had joined the cast of Broadway’s Promises, Promises, where she created a showstopping moment with "I’ll Never Fall in Love Again." She went on to play Peppermint Patty in Snoopy, then starred with Farrah Fawcett in the brutally dramatic Extremities. She’s been a perennial in stock, regionals, and national tours here and abroad. She has starred on Broadway and the West End, and performed at such top venues as Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Lut’s also a best selling author, and Emmy-nominated producer.
Her tribute to mom Judy Garland is a magical, poignant trip down the yellow brick road. There were hard and difficult times, but the ever-radiant Luft remembers the love and the laughter. She says, "Mom was witty, kind, and smart. Look when she started in the business and who she worked with. She was the whole package. That’s what the show’s about: The person, the talent, the songs. It’s not about her personal life."
Luft explains she stayed away from her mother’s songs for a long time. "ran the other way because I was desperately trying to take my own footsteps. You don’t get to know your parents until you’re in your 40s. As I got older, I could put myself there. Finally, in my 40s, I was able to do it. I didn’t have the strength or ability to give this what it deserved. I had to be strong and emotionally ready, and I wasn’t."
She explained that only after she’d written her autobiographical My and My Shadows, and it was adapted for a TV movie which she executive produced, was she able to say: "’I can do this now. Everyone and their brother have recorded songs made famous by my Mother. Why not me?"
Performing with an 11-piece orchestra, M.D.’d by Freeman, Luft will include such tunes as "The Man That Got Away," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Chicago," "Rockabye Your Baby (with a Dixie Melody)," "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," and "I Feel a Song Coming On." There’ll even be a duet with her famous mom. The tunes are interspersed with projected photos and home movies transferred to video.
Tickets for November 14’s Sinatra Sings Sinatra: As I Remember It are $53-$128; and $53 for Lorna Luft’s two shows on November 20 – prices include $3 facility fee. Purchase at the Tilles Center box office (Monday-Saturday, 1-6 P.M.), by calling (516) 299-3100, and through Ticketmaster.com (service fees will apply).