After an eight-year run of “His Way: A Tribute to the Man and His Music, ” Chicago singer Ron Hawking is back with “The Men and Their Music,” which in addition to Sinatra, also pays tribute to a wide variety of male singers. Accompanied by a three-piece rhythm section of piano, bass and drums, a brass section of trumpet, tenor sax, alto sax and trombone and two female backup singers, the net of the show is cast so far and wide it loses much sense of purpose, Hawking taking on the “persona” of singers that include Stevie Wonder, Frankie Avalon, Sam Cooke, Roy Orbison, Kenny Rogers, Joe Cocker, Perry Como, Jimmy Durante, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones, Barry Manilow and a “Rat Pack” set that includes Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and Sinatra. Is it an impressive feat for one singer to be able to effectively emulate such a wide variety of singers? In many cases, yes, especially when the renditions work, but some—especially Ray Charles and Sam Cooke—were bewilderingly bland and without neither the edge nor the rhythm of the originals. But even when it works, what is the point? Most of what is presented is done in a medley format where you might get a full verse at most, there is little narrative connecting such a smorgasbord of singers and the choice of material is extremely inconsistent, novelty songs and Top 40 hits put alongside iconic standards with only what they meant to Hawking and his family presented as the connecting thread between them. This might work in a nightclub where chatter, drinks and dancing could provide additional distractions, but seems a tad thin in a stage setting where all eyes and ears are cast in the direction of the “action,” such as it is, on stage. (Dennis Polkow)
Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport, (773)325-1700. Thu-Fri 8pm/Sat 5pm & 8pm/Sun 3pm. $49.50-$55.50. Open run.