By Ron Fassler . . . 

For those with long memories, the Rat Pack was the nickname given to a small group of show business legends who enjoyed palling around in the late 1950s and early 60s, mostly in Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra was king, and its core group consisted of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop (with Shirley MacLaine its sole female and “honorary” member). Cashing in on their comradery and notoriety, they made a couple of films, like the original Ocean’s 11. Going back further, the Rat Pack’s first iteration was in the 1940s with Humphrey Bogart as its de facto leader, with regular meetings at the Holmby Hills home of Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall.

Kathryn Allison and Sam Gravitte.

So, you get the idea. It was a cool thing. And that sort of cool was the template for the premiere of a sharp, one-time-only musical evening at Birdland, in which a foursome of fine performers has dubbed themselves “The Brat Pack.” They’re young, they’re hip, and they’re loaded with talent. Six musicians spread across the small Birdland stage, led by musical director Isaac Hayward, made for a throwback to another time that delighted the full house Monday night.

With Jelani Remy (Ain’t Too Proud) as a sort of ringmaster, Sam Gravitte (Wicked), Luke Hawkins (Irving Berlin’s White Christmas) and Kathryn Allison (Company), they brought their Broadway-level, A-game skills, backed by a big band sound that made for nostalgic and energetic time travel. If you yearn for the days of men in black jackets with skinny ties and a diva in a black cocktail party dress (although Allison changed into burgundy velvet later in the show), then this is just your sip of scotch and soda.

Jelani Remy, Luke Hawkins, Kathryn Allison and Sam Gravitte

As musical arranger of all the songs, Isaac Hayward proved to be the night’s MVP, starting off with Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “I’ve Got the World on a String,” forever associated with Nelson Riddle’s brassy version written for Frank Sinatra. However, Hayward had something else up his sleeve which was to craft it into an ensemble song (in harmonies) with a dollop of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” tossed in. He did the same for the finale, a medley that encompassed Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” with Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” as well as some movie-themed ditties: the title song from “Footloose” along with “You’re the One That I Want” and “We Go Together” from Grease. It really was a bit of awesome when four of those tunes were all sung at the same time.

On the solos front, Remy sang “Birth of the Blues,” long associated with Sammy Davis Jr., and gave us a very different kind of “Tomorrow” from Annie. Hawkins, an expert tapper, had the floor to himself and dazzled with fancy footwork on “I Got Rhythm” and “Chim Chim Cheree.” Sam Gravitte impressed with “The Best is Yet to Come” and “An Unusual Way” from Nine, easily one of the finest love songs that have come out of a Broadway score in the last . . . damn, has it really been forty years now? (Sax and bass were played with particular poignancy by Noelle Rueschman and Max Jacob respectively on this song.) And Kathryn Allison wailed on “Cry Me a River,” as well as providing a rocking good time belting out “Aquarius” from Hair, especially as backed by a great jazzy trumpet solo from Sean Edmonds. Mention must also be made of Rodney Howard’s expert percussion and Michael Boscarino’s slide (sly) trombone.

Sam Gravitte.

After all the outstanding musicianship from musicians and singers alike, the band sat out the encore for the quartet to perform a charming rendition of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” sung entirely a cappella. It was a smart choice and, like much of the evening, a winner. So credit where credit is due to Jelani Remi and Sam Gravitte who conceived it all. 

Offering ageless music and endearing singers, there’s a real chance for “The Brat Pack” to take off. Whether the plan is to take it on the road or not remains to be announced, but if you see anything about it at a theater or nightclub near you, remember this is where you heard first about how good it is. 

The Brat Pack played March 13 at Birdland (315 West 44th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues). For information on more shows go to

Photos: Ron Fassler