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STAGE REVIEW

Fondly recalling Frank and the boys

STONEHAM -- There aren't too many shows that begin with an invitation to audience members to take flash pictures during the performance. But the smooth-talking and smooth-singing players in ''The Rat Pack Returns in the Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey & Dean" do not appear concerned that anything will be improperly reproduced from their revue. That's probably because the entire contents of this crowd-pleaser, a visiting production at the Stoneham Theatre, are respectfully borrowed in the first place.

The show, written by Sandy Hackett, son of comedian Buddy Hackett, honors the Rat Pack of the 1960s -- Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin -- and affectionately pays tribute to their many Las Vegas performances.

''The Rat Pack Returns" is equal parts impersonation and homage, with such well-loved tunes as ''Fly Me to the Moon," ''Me and My Shadow," ''Lady Is a Tramp," and ''That's Amore" played by a 12-piece band that hits every note and mark just right, even when some of the performers do not. There's no plot to speak of, just a nostalgic nudge to start the show that comes in the form of a Buddy Hackett voice-over portraying God's decision to send the stars from heaven back down to the stage for one last good time.

The performers deliver portrayals that range from dead-on to charmingly misguided. Johnny Edwards as Martin is the best visual match of the evening and the best impersonator throughout the non-singing sections. His cool, easy delivery is enjoyable, and he gets all the best lines.

Jonathan Poretz doesn't look much like Sinatra, but he captures Sinatra's sound and stature expertly. Always the tough guy, Sinatra knew how to stand and deliver a song. Poretz does, too.

Kenny Jones is less successful with his portrayal of Davis, inserting contemporary pop vocal stylings into songs. His version of ''Mr. Bojangles" is performed well, but the vocals are only slightly reminiscent of Davis's. It's off-putting in part because Davis had so many performance quirks from which to choose. A dazzling pinky ring will take you only so far.

Mickey Joseph plays Bishop, the resident joke-teller. He adeptly delivers material that is genuinely humorous, regularly R-rated, and occasionally anachronistic (references to the Macarena and ''Brokeback Mountain" make it in). But there's too much of this toward the end, when it's time to let the boys do what they do best: sing with an outstanding band behind them.

''The Rat Pack Returns" isn't deep, but it's deeply entertaining.

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