February 11th, 2022

Gallery Theater shakes up a cocktail of romance and nostalgia

Two men stand in front of a bar and sing a song.

Gallery Players of Oregon opens its 2022 season this weekend, and have they got a playlist … I mean, show, for you.

Actually, they have both. 

For the next three weeks, the best of crooner Frank Sinatra’s music will fill Gallery Theater’s large auditorium in downtown McMinnville. My Way: A Tribute to the Music of Frank Sinatra is a 2-hour celebration of all things Ol’ Blue Eyes, with a live band and quartet of musicians singing and dancing their way through Sinatra songs while cleverly dropping biographical winks and nods. 

“We incorporate different facts about his life and his romances, all interweaving into the melodies,” says director Evan Tait, who was seen on Gallery’s mainstage a few years ago in Beauty and the Beast. “It’s a great walk down memory lane for a lot of people.”

The musical was created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, based on the latter’s book. Since premiering in Tennessee in 2000, it’s been produced more than 500 times and played to sold-out houses in all 50 states.

A man and woman smile as they sit at a table with a red table runner and a vase full of flowers.

With a small cast and crew, My Way has become popular in recent years as a “Covid-friendly” play: It features only four cast members, plus the band, and exuberantly gives its world-weary audience two hours of pure nostalgic entertainment that feature excerpts from more than 50 songs.

“A lot of older music is coming back into fashion on social media,” Tait said. “You can find Frank Sinatra featured on Tik Tok and things like that. It’s getting a second wind, so I think it’s interesting to go back to.”

The cast includes Gallery regulars Eli Jakob, Joseph Cannon, Emily Matsuda and Kelsey Roesner. 

Leading the band and playing keyboard is Christie Smith, with Yuya Matsuda on drums, Riley Halvorson on bass and Bret Cowan on guitar. Noah Miller choreographed the show, and theater manager, Seth Renne took on assistant director duties. The crew is rounded out by Mary Acuff, Sean Keller, Karen Root, Gabe Cook, and Robb Renne. 

“For me, Sinatra was part of my childhood,” Tait told me. “I was immediately attracted to the fact that it’s an all-Sinatra show. With everything going on in the world, we can’t agree on much, but at least we can agree that Sinatra was one of the greatest musicians.”

It’s open seating for the audience (with masks and proof of vaccination required) which allows you to spread out and relax. 

“We’ve been successfully bringing back audience members into our auditorium since last May and feel strongly that our safety protocols have been effective at keeping everybody safe,” said Renne. “We have staff who are trained to make you as patrons feel safe and welcome, which is a nice comfort to have in these unsure times.”

Gallery Theater is located at 210 NE Ford Street in downtown McMinnville. Ticket ordering is available online.

About the author: David Bates is a McMinnville writer who has appeared in Gallery Theater productions since 1998.