THEATER REVIEW; He's Still An Institute You Can't Disparage


We've all heard about sins of omission. Now it's time to talk about some of the virtues. One measure of the integrity of the musically savvy cabaret revue ''Our Sinatra'' is what is left out of this delightful tribute to Ol' Blue Eyes. In the course of about 100 minutes (with intermission), there's not a single mention of the Rat Pack, the Mafia, the Kennedys, Mia Farrow or Kitty Kelley.

Eric Comstock, Hilary Kole and Christopher Gines

''Our Sinatra,'' which features more than 50 songs associated with the singer, is devoted to the proposition that Frank Sinatra was more than just a voice who ''lived'' every song he sang, in the words of the show's mastermind, Eric Comstock. During his extended and extraordinarily prolific prime, Sinatra did more than anyone to establish the canon of American popular standards. He was famous, observes Mr. Comstock, for rescuing and shining a brilliant light on ''orphan songs,'' among them ''These Foolish Things,'' ''When Your Lover Has Gone,'' and ''I've Got You Under My Skin.''

The revue, which opened on Sunday night at the Blue Angel, a theatrical nightclub with a 1950's saloon ambience, is an elaboration of the successful show Mr. Comstock, a suave, personable singer and pianist, and his vocal partners, Christopher Gines and Hilary Cole, brought to the Algonquin Hotel earlier this year. Intelligent, witty and highly musical, the show is scholarly but not pedantic, affectionate without resorting to hyperbole.

If the show's three performers never come close to ''living'' their material in the Sinatra manner, they make a strong case for the continuing vitality of the intimate pop vocal tradition that he elevated to an art. Each of the three brings different strengths to the show.

Mr. Comstock, whose fluent, unostentatious pianism lays down its solid musical underpinnings, is an unusually insightful interpreter of lyrics who reads them phrase by phrase with perfect enunciation and a swinging ease that bespeak a deep understanding of the literature and of his chosen vocal genre.

Mr. Comstock's somewhat dry, chatty voice may not be especially sensuous, but he is still capable of conveying a degree of romantic eloquence. One of the show's high points is his beautifully articulated rendition of ''To Love and Be Loved,'' a little-known formal ballad by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen from the movie ''Some Came Running.'' On a humorous note he has also unearthed a gleefully sexist broadside (again by Cahn and Van Heusen), ''I Like to Lead When I Dance,'' that he introduces as ''morally indefensible.''

Mr. Gines, who has a 40's matinee-idol look to match his voice, possesses the creamy vocal tone (reminiscent of the younger Steve Lawrence) that Mr. Comstock lacks. And his versions of ''I Fall in Love Too Easily,'' ''Ol' Man River'' and ''If You Are but a Dream'' consciously echo Sinatra's recordings from the 1940's, when the voice dripped with youthful honey.

Ms. Cole, who is swinging and aggressively sultry, has many flashy costume changes and gives the show a dash of sex. Her medium-light voice conveys the playful essence of ''The Tender Trap,'' and she finds enough pathos in ''I'm a Fool to Want You,'' a song that Sinatra and Billie Holiday treated as a towering dark night of the soul, to justify its inclusion.

Much of the show's second half is given over to what Mr. Comstock calls ''the mother of medleys,'' in which the three singers spin out more than 30 Sinatra-identified songs into a serio-comic mini-marathon. In the middle of it all Mr. Gines suddenly sheds his ingenuous crooner's facade to parody a thuggish-sounding late Sinatra extolling ''da summah wind.'' It is the perfect deflating touch at exactly the right moment.

And speaking of the virtues of omission, the show has the good sense to leave out the seemingly inevitable ''New York, New York.'' Its absence is another welcome signal that ''Our Sinatra'' is not a contemplation of the legend and the ego that built that legend but a celebration of what really matters about Sinatra: the music.