There’s something special about the relationship veteran Richmond actor Scott Wichmann has developed with the legendary Frank Sinatra. He’ll share a glimpse into his personal connection with Ol’ Blue Eyes on October 20 when he performs Let Me Be Frank for the Legends on Grace cabaret series.
Wichmann will use his relationship with Sinatra and his music as a “framing device for a fun evening,” he says.
His first brush with Sinatra’s music came when he was young, sitting in his grandfather’s beat up green jeep and listening to an AM radio station. “My grandfather would whistle the tunes,” he says. “Every now and then, I would hear this voice come on the radio and it was like solid oak.”
When Wichmann was in college, he lived next to a student defensive back for the school’s football team who got up at four in the morning for practice. “He would blast Frank Sinatra at that time of the morning,” Wichmann says. “It never made me mad. I just started immersing myself in that music in college.”
He got his first opportunity to play Sinatra when Randy Strawderman who was directing Ella and Her Fella at Barksdale in 1999 tapped him to play Sinatra. When he heard about the show, he knew he had to be involved with the production. “I auditioned five or six times,” he says.
He was in a bar outside of Philadelphia when he learned he was being cast as Sinatra. “It was pre-cell phone days and Randy tracked me down at this bar,” he recalls.
Wichmann worked with world-renowned jazz vocalist René Marie in the production. Performing with her was “like a master class,” he says. “I got the best seat in the house to watch the René Marie show. It was neat. I learned how to tell a story through song.”
Sinatra is decidedly in Wichmann’s wheelhouse, drawing on everything from the crooner’s smooth style to the spirit he brings to the music. And it doesn’t hurt that the well-known Richmond actor looks devilishly close to a young Sinatra.
And Wichmann has the soul of an old-school performer. “I’ve been modeling myself like the Sinatra, Mel Torme, Bobby Darin types,” he says. “I do songs that run the gamut from novelty songs to standards.”
When he performs, his show at Rhythm Hall at Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Wichmann will be Sinatra in only the way Wichmann can.
“There’s a common thread running through the performance,” he says. “I want to give the audience a sense of Frank’s life and at the same time, let people in on how long his music has been in my life and what that has meant to me.”
Those memorable moments are often simple occurrences like Wichmann walking around campus when he first when to college in New York humming Autumn in New York. When he was deployed overseas he had his Sinatra CD with him to remind him of home. The music helped him get through the “ups and downs,” he says. “To have this figure that is central to your artistic life, it’s like a gift.”
Wichmann simply loves listening to the music. “Sinatra really is one of a kind. I had a case of his CDs that I carried with me everywhere,” he says.
He’s glad Richmond Performing Arts Alliance is instituting its Legends on Grace series. “It creates a new venue for Richmond artists to perform cabaret and it shares a spotlight on the talent in town. It represents a great opportunity,” he says, noting he and musical director Ryan Corbitt have been concentrating on these types of cabaret shows.
At the moment, Wichmann is trying to winnow down Sinatra’s catalogue for the October 20 show. “I have about twenty-two songs right now, but I’m toying with twenty-five or so,” he says, adding he’s modeled the show after the album Sinatra & Sextet: Live in Paris. “It’s a great album.”
If the show sells out, there is a possibility of adding a second show, he adds. “It’s a celebration of Sinatra and a nice night out on the town. I want to give people that old-school sense of being out on the town and enjoying the songs of a lifetime.”
Tickets to Legends on Grace: Let Me Be Frank on October 20 at Rhythm Hall at Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts are $35 for general admission and $20 for student general admission. They can be purchased at 800-541-ETIX (3849), dominionenergycenter.com