Drew Anthony returns to Shubert in ‘Dean Lives’
North Haven-raised singer in cast of ‘Rat Pack’
NEW HAVEN » “Mem-ories are... made of this,” Dean Martin sang.
And based on Drew Anthony’s memories, plus research and chats with fans, Martin’s enduring appeal lies in this: “He was a very sincere performer that people just loved . ... People will always say, ‘I loved Sinatra but Dean was my favorite.’”
Anthony should know; he’s New Haven’s favorite Dean Martin impersonator who was raised nearby but worked for years in Las Vegas.
Backed by multimedia visuals and a 12-piece orchestra, “Rat Pack is Back!” star Anthony brings his recent side project to the Shubert in “Dean Lives” Saturday at 8 p.m.
The idea came to him a while back during a few-months lull in his otherwise-steady gig as Dean Martin in “The Rat Pack Returns” in Las Vegas.
He knew he was a natural as Martin, based on responses from fans, so he decided to put together a show with just Dean Martin.
“But I didn’t want to just go out there and sing songs for 90 minutes ... because it’s boring for the audience when it’s the same thing.”
He decided to add story and other characters.
“My goal was to create a show about Dean Martin that kind of had different moments of his career,” he said.
The result is a show in three acts, one about Dean and Jerry Lewis (who died recently), one about the Vegas years and the third about “The Dean Martin Show” years.
He added a “caretaker”/longtime friend of Martin character to share his memories of Dean’s life and set up scenes and songs with Anthony as Dean, a woman playing Marilyn Monroe, another pegging Peggy Lee and guys playing Lewis and Johnny Carson. It finally hit the stage in January 2017.
“I did it twice already in Ohio,” stubbornly refusing to change the script despite actors’ suggestions, he said, “and we had about 1,600 people show up and it really was amazing. I was proud of everything.”
The North Haven High grad attended the New School University’s jazz college in Manhattan, where he studied with some well-known jazz musicians and vocal coaches. He returned to Connecticut and played in a band doing American standards that was seen frequently at Connecticut’s two huge casinos.
But it all started with his Italian family upbringing.
Anthony (born Andrew Carrano) began singing with family. He was inspired by his grandmother, Marie Antoinette Rossetti Carrano, who loved to sing and play the piano and guitar. He would spend time with her listening to Nat King Cole records, sing and have Italian coffee.
“At the time, they were just her songs, you know, American standards, and I’d sing along with her,” said Anthony. “And I liked the melodies and the words of those songs.”
Jazz school allowed him to work on the standards in a different way, while learning important things about music and vocalizing.
He formed his trio and quartet to do standards in the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun, for instance, also occasionally performing in New Jersey casinos.
And then in 2006 he took his talents to Las Vegas, for its many lounge music opportunities. He sang the standards there, until someone suggested he try out for the “Rat Pack” show, where a 10-year success as Dean Martin followed.
“Luckily, the timbre is similar to Dean’s. By no means am I exactly like Dean. I’m closer than I would be if I wasn’t playing Dean, but the timbre’s the same, the personality is similar because I’m all-Italian, I grew up in Connecticut . ... All my research that I’ve done ... watching him and getting his mindset, it’s very similar...”
To get the job, he auditioned briefly and then subbed for the regular Dean for two years before winning the job permanently. It led to “Rat Pack” performances at the Shubert in New Haven before hometown fans in 2011 (and again in 2012).
“That was a good time,” Anthony said. “My (maternal) grandmother was alive at the time and she got to see the show, and of course my mother and my father, everybody was there. So that was a special moment.”
Anthony has much gratitude for the great singers and the music they made.
“It’s just an honor to do it, and I love the music. It’s amazing for any of these people, like Sinatra or Elvis, that they can touch people to the degree that people want to go out and see somebody else perform the songs, even long after they’re gone . ... And ‘The Dean Martin Show’ had a lot of effect on people; they watched him every week. He was in the living room.”
Drew Anthony as Dean Martin.
Drew Anthony, backed by an orchestra, as Dean Martin.
In an Ohio performance of “Dean Lives,” Drew Anthony and Vanessa Ralls as Peggy Lee.