Frank, Dean and Sammy

Deano should have stayed at home - Ol' Blue Eyes takes the ovation on his own

When it comes to squeezing the life out of a joke that is really not-so-funny-in-the-first-place, how long is too long? On the evidence of tonight, I would suggest five minutes, tops. But Frank, Dean and Sammy are old pros, so if they want to run with the joke that Dean Martin liked a bit of a drink for two hours straight, then who am I to judge?

Strangely, the man who plays Deano seems like he might actually be tipsy himself, forgetting lines, fluffing jokes, lacking energy as he kicks his heels. He is most definitely the weak link in an otherwise flawless triple act, skipping languidly across the stage and failing to hit the high (or the low) notes as Frank and Sammy command the Waterfront Hall with an armoury of talents that would make even the most rigid audience member pine for the sweet, sinful scents of the Nevada desert.

Frank, Dean and Sammy’s Christmas Special is a show of two halves, as the saying goes. The first is devoid of anything even remotely festive, aside from a peculiarly unimpressive Christmas tree adorning stage left. Stephen Triffitt (aka Sinatra) opens proceedings with a few crooner classics including ‘Fly Me to the Moon’, before quipping in faultless Sinatra tones: ‘I wonder who put up the Christmas tree. I hope they do a better job at home.’

As Sammy Davis Jr gets his tap (dancing) on, a brief survey of the crowd reveals that swing music attracts a diverse crowd these days, from groups of young women swaying from side to side, to lesser groups of stocky, shaven-headed men who may or may not have spent time debating the finer points of Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers at her Majesty’s pleasure. They don't move a muscle during the songs, but they clap much louder than the rest of us when they're done.

During the interval one such mammoth of a man, evidently veering on the wrong side of sober, stares down a 5ft Waterfront employee who looks like he may wet his trousers. ‘Em… c-c-can I do anything for you, sir?’ No answer is forthcoming.

Since appearing on Stars in Their Eyes in 2000, Triffitt has made the role of Sinatra his own, and tonight he is undoubtedly the best of the three performers. His physical resemblance to Ol' Blue Eyes is remarkable, and his singing voice so powerful that when he joins Dean and Sammy for the odd number it’s as if their microphones have been switched off.

After the break we’re treated to a selection of Christmas songs, from Sinatra singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ to Deano butchering ‘Let It Snow’. The band, however, which features three female backing singers, double bass, piano, drums and a nine-man brass section (no sign of the 'dancers' promised in the programme), carry the song when Deano fails to sparkle.

The best is saved for last, when Triffitt announces that we’re nearing the end of the show. Requests go up from all quarters, and the following rendition of ‘My Way’ is spoilt only by the joker in the crowd who thinks he can sing it better than the professional. Triffitt does a magnificent job, however, and takes the ovation alone, leaving Belfast in floods.

They may forget a few lyrics, appear lost at sea between songs (with each performer seemingly oblivious to what's happening next) and keep a weak joke running for much longer than it should, but such flaws are forgivable when you have a talent like Triffitt on the bill. Tonight, Matthew, I shall mostly be listening to Songs for Swingin' Lovers, which I'm sure is a wonderful album. Let it be known that I am not disputing that fact one little bit...

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