Dean Martin & The Legacy of a King

By Lydia Baxter

Charisma. Comedy. Confidence. Dean Martin was “The King of Cool.”

Elvis Presley admired him. Marilyn Monroe partied with him. And Frank Sinatra was his wingman.

FST’s newest Cabaret, That’s Amoré! celebrates the great songbook and talent of Dean Martin. Featuring music that put Martin on the map, with classics like, “Everybody Loves Somebody,” “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” and “Volare,” this charming musical revue follows Martin’s personal and professional life, from his partnership with Jerry Lewis to headlining at the Sands with his Rat Pack buddies.

“You would never have imagined that Martin would become such a beloved entertainer,” said Rebecca Hopkins, Lead Developer of That’s Amoré!. “But he became one of the highest paid entertainers of the 1960s, and did it all with this laidback flair that made him seem more approachable.”

His effortless vocals became his signature sound, even earning the admiration of his close friend Frank Sinatra. When Martin’s daughter, Deana, asked Sinatra if her father knew about all the work that goes into singing well, he said, “No, he has no idea what he’s doing. He just does it.”

And Martin’s natural talent shined through—even though Sinatra recorded “Everybody Loves Somebody” twice for different labels and Dinah Washington recorded it in 1959, neither recording took off. As Martin was recording Dream with Dean: The Intimate Dean Martin in 1964, he needed another song to complete the album. One of the musicians in the studio suggested “Everybody Loves Somebody,” and the song became a hit. It even knocked The Beatles from the No. 1 spot on the charts in June 1964. The song eventually became the theme song to Martin’s NBC show, The Dean Martin Variety Show.

During the 40 or so years that Martin was recording music, he released over 100 singles and is featured on over 60 albums. His allure has withstood the test of time, and the critics agree.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune wrote of That’s Amoré! “It’s hard to resist joining in.” Total Theater calls it a “Hit Tribute,” and according to The Observer, “You’re in for an entertaining evening.”

Despite being born several decades after the heyday of Martin’s career, the cast too, all feel a personal connection to the entertainment legend.

“I LIVE in this era of music, so I’ve always looked up to Dean and his contemporaries,” said Nygel D. Robinson, who was last seen in FST’s record-breaking Cabaret Blue Suede Shoes (2018). “He was a sly crooner who could deliver a ballad as good as he could deliver a joke. I’ve always thought of him as a jazzy version of Elvis.”

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Nygel Robinson and Nick Anastasia in That’s Amoré!. Photo by Matthew Holler.

Mike Backes, who returns to the Court Cabaret after performing in Mack the Knife two years ago, admires Martin’s impeccable comedic timing. “The ability to make people laugh is a beautiful thing,” said Backes. “Dean incorporated a lot of off-the-cuff humor and took risks in front of live audiences—both of which were pretty daring for the time. All along, he made it look effortless, which brought him to another level.”

Singing alongside Robinson and Backes are Nick Anastasia and Emily Dennis.

Rounding out the cast on drums and piano, respectively, are Andrew Deeb and Jim Prosser. Deeb is a member of FST Improv and played drums for the hit Cabaret Mack the Knife (2018). As FST’s Resident Pianist for 26 years, Prosser has co-developed and arranged the music for countless shows, including That’s Amoré!

Whether he was singing with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. or making fun of other stars on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, Martin’s charisma and voice never failed to enchant audiences.

And we doubt that that’s going to change anytime soon.

That’s Amoré! runs in FST’s Court Cabaret through February 2. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.