A Night With Frank And Friends
● By Robert Frey
The Rat Pack Of AcadianaBy Shanna P. Dickens | Photos by Lee Ball
“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew, but through it all when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall and…did it my way.”
— My Way, Frank Sinatra
The Iberia Performing Arts League (IPAL), Main Street New Iberia and the Iberia Preservation Alliance are also doing it their way…with a little help from some familiar faces and eerily familiar voices. A Night With Frank & Friends is a fundraising event for Beneath the Balconies, held each November. The event premiered last year to such success that everyone involved knew it had to come back this year bigger and better.
A Night With Frank And Friends will take place at the IPAL Essanee Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 28. Hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served at 5:30 p.m. and the performance will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets, available at the Shadows-on-the-Teche Visitor Center, are $35 for general admission and $50 for reserved seating, which ensures a front row seat to the show.
“Beneath the Balconies, the event that Frank and Friends supports, is free,” reasons Frank and Friends “worker bee” Cindy Gulotta. “If someone wants to support New Iberia and the cultural activities that go on here, this is a fairly inexpensive way to support another free event that is available to everyone. It’s really a win-win.”
Aside from the phenomenal entertainment, the ambiance is unparalleled. Frank and Friends is a truly immersive event. From the setting to the stage, it captures Frank Sinatra’s “Vegas Days.” It’s an evening of entertainment from start to finish.
“Last year, we did a silent auction with local art and different creations,” explains committee member and performer Kate Gulotta. “It was such a huge success that this year we’ve expanded on it and have involved a lot of local artists and talents. We’ll be featuring Painted Parasols again this year. We’ve also gone more in depth with the decorations and the hors d’oeuvres to create more of an experience.”
“Last year, while we were setting up for the event, Frank Sinatra music started playing suddenly,” recalls Cindy Gulotta. “I mentioned to someone how great it was to have it playing to inspire us. And they told me that it wasn’t a recording, it was Spencer Racca, who plays Frank Sinatra, doing his rehearsal. I was blown away! It’s unbelievable; the entire audience was mesmerized. He stays in character the entire time.”
Racca doesn’t simply sound like Sinatra, over the years, he’s honed his skills of becoming Sinatra when he takes the stage. So how does a 26-year-old transform into the whiskey swilling, (faux) cigarette puffing legendary crooner? Through Dean Martin, of course.
“When I was a kid I would get a Dean Martin movie anytime I got a good report card, and I would imitate Dean,” Racca explains. “Through that, I found out about Frank and realized I looked more like him than Dean. I began imitating Frank, and today it’s my full time job,”
The evening is called Frank and Friends for a reason. Racca will be joined on stage by Trevor Chapman as Dean Martin, Tyler William as Sammy Davis Jr. and Kim Monroe and Kate Gulotta as special guests. Racca says that when he performs, he tries to immolate the “Vegas days.” That certainly entails the entire Rat Pack. Last year, at Frank and Friends, was the first time that Racca had ever performed with an entire crew, and he says he won’t forget the experience. But, Racca isn’t the only entertainer on whom last year’s show had a lasting effect.
“As much as I love performing and being on stage, I thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to Spencer do his thing,” Kate Gulotta relates. “He’s so spot on. To turn around and see the affect he has on the audience, their faces light up and they sing along to every song. It’s also so amazing to see people making these memories at IPAL, a place I consider a second home.”
The historic Essanee Theatre is the ideal venue for this event. Performers and audience members alike always agree, there’s just something special about the theatre.
“I think I’m most excited to perform in the theatre again,” Racca reveals. “It’s so beautiful and old, it really matches my personality and it’s the perfect backdrop for this show. This is such a great and rare opportunity for everyone in South Louisiana to see the Rat Pack.”
For more information on A Night With Frank and Friends, call 337-369-6446.