Tuesday January 23rd 2018

Ron Hawking “The Men and Their Music”


Recommended *** Ron Hawking is a very talented man! This, as it turns out is the tenth anniversary of his “The Men and Their Music” that played at The Mercury Theatre for quite some time. The concept of the show was to pay homage to the great singers that gave us memories that still linger in our minds and our hearts. Ron is a Chicago native, who began his career in singing by appearing on The Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour on ABC ( that was a Sunday afternoon delight). Most of us recall his “His Way- A Tribute to the Man and His Music” back in 1998, which I know we saw several times. In that show, he pays tribute to Frank Sinatra and his pals, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. Based on the success of this show, he decided to branch out and do other male singers as well as add a few female “back-ups”.

In “The Men and Their Music”, he pays tribute to the legendary vocalists: Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Burt Bachrach, Glen Campbell and many others. While he is a great impersonator, some of the song stylists and their works are not quite as they would do- these are tributes to some of the greats. He even does a lot of “Jersey Boys” hits but cannot hit all the notes. In this 90 minutes of music- the show is divided into two segments with an intermission, allowing bathroom breaks and time to purchase beverages, so the total time is closer to  2 hours, plus! ( they did two encore sets, not songs today).

The first segment (one might call is an act) features music from “Finian’s Rainbow” as done by Tony Bennett, a “Remembering Glenn Campbell segment”, a tribute to the great Ray Charles, another to Billy Joel/Elton John and their work together. The two young ladies onstage with him are the lovely Rianee Denham who does a solid performance of “All That Jazz” from “Chicago” and Kathy Sparrenberger does a duet with Hawking in the second act/segment. What a set of pipes! Both are lovely to look at and both have some great moves!

There are tributes to Casey Cassem and Dick Clark and during the Burt Bachrach number, which ends the first segment, he does Tom Jones to perfection. Most of us see him as the impersonator, but I for one find his voice to be a stand alone. In other words, he could have probably had a career singing Ron Hawking, but at the time, doing Sinatra and others, since he had the talent to do so, was his ticket to “stardom” (or as close as he could get). I watched the audience very closely. The Apollo Theater located at 2540 N. Lincoln Avenue was filled with older audience members for his opening. After all, it was also the Bears opener and a home Cubs game- younger people who made that choice would have been better off coming to this show! While they watched losers, we watched a winner! Here is what I wanted to say about this audience. While many of them could not tell you what they had eaten for lunch today (only two hours prior to showtime), they knew every word of every song!

I did enjoy the second portion of the show when he tells the story of his dad and why he became a celebrity impersonator. From the story he went right into his Dean Martin, then Sammy and then Frank Sinatra. By that time the audience was in love  with him and he could do no wrong. He is a true showman from the start to end and even after, when he goes out to the lobby to sell and autograph his CD’s. Is he as strong as he was 10 years ago? Maybe age has changed his looks, but his voice and showmanship are just a like a fine wine- aging has mellowed him.

He has some great musicians to work with him- Paul Coscino at the keyboards, Rich Maisel on Bass and the amazing Jeff Sandler on drums.

“The Men and their Music” will continue at The Apollo Theater Chicago thru October 1 with performances as follows:

Thursdays  2 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $25- $65 and available at the theater box office, by calling 773-935-6100 or online at http://www.ticketmaster.com.com

Have a group? Call 312-423-6612 (10 or more)

Parking is available next door and on the street of course (metered mostly).

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Men and Their Music”


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