Rochester Rat Pack brings back big band sound

Jan 28, 2016

BATAVIA — The appearance of the Rochester Rat Pack at Genesee Community College will bring an evening of entertainment much different from their offerings in the past, according to Donna Rae Sutherland, associate director of marketing at the college.

“A show like this is something we’ve never had before and we’re excited for the possibility it could draw a slightly older audience,” Sutherland said. “It should be a fun night.”

The Rat Pack will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Stuart Steiner Theater.

Frank Torchio started the Rochester-based Rat Pack about eight years ago, having inherited his love of Sinatra and the original Rat Pack from his father, Carl.

“My father loved that music, especially Dean Martin and Frank,” Torchio said. “I wanted to do something in my parents memory, after they both died in 1995.”

Torchio began doing comedy and impressions at an early age, and by high school he had developed an act for fellow students and faculty at Cardinal Mooney High School in Rochester.

He continued to perform at coffee houses and bars while attending Niagara University. After graduation, he worked at comedy clubs in Manhattan.

He gave up performing when he decided to go to graduate school at the University of Rochester. Then began a new venture, performing for senior centers, retirement villages and nursing homes with his impressions of Dean Martin, Jimmy Stewart, George Burns, Ed Sullivan and others. His goal then was to raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society (both of his parents died from cancer) and Catholic Charities.

In 1995, Torchio won first prize as Rochester’s Funniest Bigshot at Rochester’s Geva Theatre’s fundraiser, Stand Up for Geva.

One night in 2003 at a karaoke bar, he was spotted by Nik of Nik and the Nice Guys, and was asked to perform with them.

Eight years ago, Torchio decided to form his group, which he called the Rat Pack. He added Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash, among others, to his repertoire and is joined by female vocalists Shanthi Kelley and Julie Ketchum of Rochester, who have added their impersonations of the likes of Judy Garland, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald.”

“It’s an American songbook,” Torchio said. “We try to recreate the songs in the way the great artisits did and the way people remember them.”

Most are sung with the same phrasing and intonation as the original artists did, Torchio said.

David Labman on piano and Shanthi’s husband Brandon Kelley on saxophone make up the rest of the Rat Pack.

Tickets for the show are $8 for adults; $5 for students, seniors over 55 and GCC faculty and staff; $3 for GCC students with identification; and $2 discount for GCC alumni with identification.

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by Virginia Kropf, The Daily News (1/28/2016)
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