HIS WAY: A TRIBUTE TO THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC, at the Mercury Theater. Billed as a “special salute” to Frank Sinatra, in what promises to be the first of many, Ron Hawking’s His Way is a kind of museum piece displaying Sinatra’s swingin’, high-livin’ persona of the 1950s and ’60s. Although Hawking announces early on that he’ll perform in his own style, he seems to have picked up his technique from playing every Sinatra-Nelson Riddle up-tempo album over and over again. His style is uber-Frank: the cavalier stance, the liberties with lyrics, the aggressive diction counterpointed with relaxed phrasing. Still, there’s something unforced, even fresh, in Hawking’s derivative approach. More singing meteorologist than nightclub showman, he may lack charisma. But he maintains a genuine candor, eagerly pointing out his own missteps, never attempting to wow the audience with over-the-top emotionalism.
Accompanied by Bill Rogers’s white-hot 14-piece big band, Hawking gives us a by-the-numbers review of Sinatra’s best-known post-Stordahl standards: “Come Fly With Me,” “Witchcraft,” “All the Way,” “The Lady Is a…”–well, you get the picture. This unsurprising evening comes complete with Dino and Sammy imitations, which feel like filler. Even worse is watching Hawking impersonate Sinatra and attempt to re-create the masterpiece “One for My Baby”–traumatic for any true Frankophile. Hawking has no trouble knocking out a song, but he’s at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to putting one over–a skill at which Sinatra had no equal.