By Don Heckman
Hollywood, CA. As if her name wasn’t enough to identify her, Deana Martin was introduced in her Christmas show at Catalina Bar & Grill Friday night by a big screen video projection of her father. That’s right, the late Dean Martin.
2nd and 3rd generation celebrity performers are nothing new in Los Angeles (and New York, for that matter). Some have built successful careers on their own, despite (or because of?) their well-known names. Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Natalie Cole come to mind among numerous others.
But the enhanced visibility generated by names and lineage isn’t enough to create a career as a performer. It takes talent, as well.
A quality that Deana Martin has in abundance.
Performing with a sterling quartet – pianist/singer John Proulx, bassist Chuck Berghofer, guitarist John Chiodini and drummer M.B. Gordy – she was a non-stop dynamo of musical energy.
Blessed with a warm, intimate vocal quality, a gifted lyrical story-teller, Martin convincingly found her way into the musical heart of everything she sang. Although one could detect – in an occasional tune – the timbres or the phrasing of her father, she clearly had her own interpretations of everything she sang.
Since it was her Christmas show, the seasonal items blossomed in abundance: “Silver Bells,” “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?,” “Let It Snow,” “It’s Christmas Once Again.” And one of the high points of the show, reserved for the final segment, was an audio/video presentation of Martin singing “White Christmas” with the late Andy Williams..
Between songs, she was an engaging raconteur, telling tales about growing up in Beverly Hills, about greeting – and participating in — celebrity carol singing groups going from door to door at Christmas time.
Martin also sang numbers associated with her father or his friends. Among them: “Come On-A My House” (Rosemary Clooney); “I Won’t Dance” (Frank Sinatra and/or Fred Astaire). As well as – from her father’s songbook — “Volare,” “That’s Amore” and “Memories Are Made of This” (done with a Dean Martin video).
Further widening her presentation, she teamed up, humorously, with a few performers who had worked with her father, and sang a warm duet with pianist Proulx. Her final song, appropriately, was her father’s signature “Everybody Loves Somebody.”
Well-planned, well-crafted and well-delivered, the show was the work of a performer whose talents reach well beyond her celebrity roots. Entertaining as it was, however, one couldn’t help but wish to hear Martin some time in a setting that has nothing to do with her lineage, singing songs unrelated to her father or the Rat Pack, thoroughly revealing the unique talents that are her own.
Photo by Faith Frenz.