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Les Lankhorst: Press & Reviews

Les Lankhorst Brings his High Class Show to the High Seas

Guests of Holland America's Statendam were treated to a magnificent concert by tribute artist Les Lankhorst on this year's Christmas cruise to the Panama Canal. For one night only, Lankhorst took the stage and presented a beautiful selection of standards made famous by vocal giants: Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Nat King Cole, Harry Connick, Jr., Bobby Darrin and Hugh Jackman.

Lankhorst appeared in the national touring company of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He also starred in New York City as Pharoah in the Off-Broadway musical Moses, My Love. Dapper and warm-hearted, he charmed the Holland America audience with silver renditions of Christmas classics, Sinatra standards, and selections from the legitimate stage, including Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.

-by Dr. Anton Andersseen

Dr. Anton Anderssen is a cultural anthropologist, specializing in "high culture." Visit his web page at Anton is a member of several high IQ societies, including Mensa, Triple 9, ISPE and Prometheus.

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Ol' Blue Eyes

Rating: 5 Stars
Sta5 Stars

For those who like Frank Sinatra and his music, a trip to see Ol’ Blue Eyes, the new production that opened Sept. 12 at The Chestnut Fine Arts Center, means hearing his most famous songs performed in his own distinct style.

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Les Lankhorst and Samantha Agron lead a two hour performance and escort audiences down memory lane of the crooner’s hits that spanned a 50 year career...Lankhorst remains the focus of the show. He sounds just like Frankie on some songs and very much like Frank on some others. Still, he makes the music his own without changing too much. That, alone is a plus for the performance. People know what a specific song sounds like and expect something very similar. Lankhorst achieves this high performance level without imitation.  As for Lankhorst, his velvet notes and baritone match perfectly with the Sinatra-themed show. Though much younger than the Rat Pack members, his vocal style would make him equitable with them and their music. Most of the songs performed do not require a lot of range or force, but when needed, that force, power, and emotion come effortlessly to Lankhorst. Doing Sinatra’s music appears to be a natural fit for the crooner.

And, what Sinatra show could end without his two biggest hits of the later career, “That’s Life,” and “My Way”? None. The Chestnut Fine Arts Center’s show did close with those mega-hits from a mega-career.

Each and every song drew thunderous applause and audience approval. Credit Agron, Zimmerman, and especially Lankhorst with creating and performing a plethora of Frank Sinatra hits–and no misses. What a fantastic evening of entertainment, geared toward family fun and many memories. All Sinatra fans need to see this show. Tickets will go fast and performances will sell out as word spreads.


Bob Evans - The Examiner (Sep 13, 2013)
Pay tribute to musical memory
Show delights with romance, good cheer and a touch of silliness
"You make me feel so young," a Frank Sinatra stand-in sings in "The Rat Pack is Back."

Baby, it's mutual.

Even for those of us born after the swinging Las Vegas lounge era ruled by Frankie, Sammy, Joey and Dean, the touring tribute act now at Spirit Square is a satisfying trip back in time. Whenever and wherever you were at your most romantic, most silly, most relaxed and optimistic, this ersatz Rat Pack -- four gifted actor/singer/comedians who are also credible impersonators of their respective legends -- will take you there, in 90 entertaining minutes.

An opening montage of video clips from the glittering Vegas strip, circa 1960, suggests where those of a certain age are about to return: to the iconic Copa Room of the Sands hotel, "A Place in the Sun" now consigned, like so many of its entertainers, to the shadows of memory.

McGlohon Theatre, a historic sanctuary still haloed in stained glass, isn't the perfect setting for a Rat Pack resurrection; when two of the guys go ga-ga over the untethered bosoms gracing one cabaret table near the stage, actor Les Lankhorst, the show's solid Sinatra, reminds his fellows they're in a house of God. And then he gets a good look for himself.

Host Blumenthal PAC must have had a reason for putting this production here, while booking "Late Night Catechism" -- a touring one-nun comedy act, running Oct. 16-28 -- in the wholly secular Booth Playhouse, but we're scratching our heads.

Of course, by night's end, when Lankhorst lands "My Way" with a studied balance of originality, imitation and homage, "The Rat Pack is Back" approaches a spiritual experience. The show's creators -- chiefly Sandy Hackett (son of comedian Buddy Hackett, and a stand-out here as funny man Joey Bishop), director Ben Lokey and musical director Lon Bronson -- clearly worship at the American pop altar, and every performer on stage embraces this material with an almost religious zeal. (The show's splendid big band, sure to become more so as Bronson and the cast settle in, is The Tribute orchestra of Charlotte.)

If Bobby Mayo Jr. comes across as an overly cartoonish Dean Martin, and young Nicholas Brooks lacks Sammy Davis Jr.'s incomparable grace, all the guys can sing. And every song -- even those, like "Mr. Bojangles," that actually post-date the Rat Pack period -- is one we're delighted to hear.

The show builds momentum naturally, as each singer delivers a solo set; each gets interrupted, hilariously, by Hackett's Joey; some do numbers together; and then all four friends assemble, around a well-stocked bar cart, for the upbeat finale.

Catch this show, kids. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Theater

REVIEW The Rat Pack is Back

A touring re-creation of the legendary Las Vegas lounge act of Frankie, Dean, Sammy and Joey.

WHEN: 3 and 8 p.m. today; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday; 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Runs through Oct. 21.

WHERE: McGlohon Theatre, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St. ADMISSION:


DETAILS: 704-372-1000 or Julie York Coppens

Onstage at McGlohon Theater, the main attractions in The Rat Pack Is Back are the swinging triumvirate of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. -- with Joey Bishop stepping in as ringmaster or deadpanning comic relief. Behind the scenes, it's a whole different story. Joey was the spark.

Just ask Sandy Hackett, the writer/producer of Rat Pack who portrays Bishop here in Charlotte -- between shuttle stops in Detroit.

"HBO was doing a movie about the Rat Pack," Hackett explains, "and Joey called me and thought I'd be perfect to play him. But it wasn't his decision, so I didn't end up with the role. But it set me on a course to create my own product."

That product premiered in Las Vegas six years ago, and its offshoots have been thriving ever since, as many as five versions running simultaneously just last year. To look at Hackett, son of the late-great mush-mouthed Buddy, you wouldn't think there was any reason to cast him as Bishop.

But listen and you find unmistakable earmarks of Bishop's flat, clipped style. The same is true of Hackett's Rat Pack co-stars. After Les Lankhorst removes the trademark chapeau, the resemblance to Ol' Blue Eyes is strictly in the replication of Sinatra's post-croon hipster vocalizing. Nicholas Brooks is even more unerring in his copy of Sammy's timbre and manner, and Bobby Mayo Jr. -- notwithstanding his silly Eddie Cantor prancing -- reproduces Dino's ultra-relaxed sound to near-perfection.

Although he diligently researched the archives chronicling the original Vegas engagement of 1960, Hackett has discreetly allowed a few anachronisms on the Rat Pack playlist. Dean Martin didn't touch "Everybody Loves Somebody" until 1964, Sammy Davis wouldn't even hear "Mr. Bojangles" until 1968 at the earliest, and Frankie's "My Way" was born in 1968, a dozen years before he recorded "New York, New York." The truly major surgery, however, was done on the comedy -- particularly when it was leveled at Davis.

"Some of the stuff had a racial overtone to it that was acceptable then but by today's standards is not," Hackett admits. "They picked on Sammy mercilessly for his size, his color, his being Jewish, his one eye. Some of the stuff was funny, and some of the stuff, you go, 'O-o-o, a little too much.' So I've toned it down."

PC members of the audience can thus be assured that the rattiest bits of the Rat Pack have been duly rehabilitated. Like all the great stars of today.
Dear Les:

Your concert on Friday night was, quite simply, extraordinary. You have a tremendous voice--a voice with great range, great clarity, and great passion. You also have a very nice style and your presence makes everyone in the audience feel very, very comfortable. I think you could see by the two standing ovations that the audience agrees that you are a first-rate and terrific singer and that you are, indeed, a rising star as a musical talent.


Jon Wefald
Kansas State University
110 Anderson Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-0112
Dr. Jon Wefald -President of Kansas State University - Office of the President of Kansas State University (Sep 10, 2007)
"what a wonderful, seasoned singer--he is heading to the top!"
"...the best singer we've worked with in 20 years..."
Al Pierson -owner & conductor of the Guy Lombardo Orchestra - Personal Quote (Feb 19, 2007)
Regina Musialowski

Hometown: Mint Hill.

What she won: Two tickets to see “Les Lankhorst: Red, Hot & Swing!” at Booth Playhouse on Saturday.

What she told us after the show: “My husband and I loved his show. The fact that he incorporated talent (a cellist and a singer) from a local college into some of his renditions impressed us. The wonderful love songs from the past 50 years were so romantic, and made our Valentine's Day very special!”
He takes his cues from Ol' Blue Eyes
Singer re-creates Sinatra in `The Rat Pack is Back,' now heading to Charlotte
Theater Writer
Regrets? He's had a few.

Les Lankhorst, though, is not Frank Sinatra.

He grew up in Kansas. His musical roots were in the church choir, which his mother directed. And his eyes -- when he's not wearing his performance contact lenses -- are hazel green.

But when Lankhorst sings "My Way," Frank's way, somewhere in the audience there's a gray-haired widow stepping back in time.

"We played four months in Detroit," says Lankhorst, one of four stars of the Charlotte-bound revue "The Rat Pack is Back," which re-creates the legendary Las Vegas lounge act of Frank, Sammy, Joey and Dean. "And every week, at least one woman would come up to me after the show and tell me, `That was my Bob's favorite song.' And she still has tears in her eyes. Or, `I remember, in 1949, my Billy proposed to me. We were sitting in the car ...'

"I've had so many moments like that. And I'm a real softhearted, hopeless-romantic-type guy," adds Lankhorst -- something else he and Sinatra don't have in common. "So it completely breaks me up. For me, that's literally why I do this. It means so much for me to be able to give people back those memories."

And "The Rat Pack is Back" is a swinging good time, Lankhorst says -- whether or not theatergoers are old enough to remember Sinatra and his fellow stars in their heyday: "It's just sitting back, letting everything go in your life, and having an absolute ball."

For the show's four-week Charlotte run, artisans have transformed McGlohon Theatre into the iconic Copa Room of the Sands Hotel, circa 1960. That's where Sinatra, the "Chairman of the Board," met with some of his best pallies in the business, often Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop, who wrote most of the group's comedy bits. (Sandy Hackett, son of the late comedian Buddy, is a creator of "The Rat Pack is Back" and plays Bishop in the show.)

"It's a time period when everything was just more simple," Lankhorst says, and when grown-ups spent their leisure time in grown-up ways. "There's something to be said for having a cocktail at 5:30 with friends and talking, and not having to rush to soccer practice. In those days, that's just the way it was."

The period's top entertainers, likewise, always kept their cool, on stage and off -- though, in terms of race relations, the times were not so simple: "When they came into a situation where people said `Sammy can't stay in the hotel,' Frank would say, `Well, we're not doing the show. He's my friend.' "

The key to playing Sinatra, Lankhorst says, is to bring that same offhand confidence and absolute clarity of purpose to every phrase.

"Sinatra, when he did these songs, he did very, very little, because he knew that the song and the voice would carry it," Lankhorst says. "It truly is the opposite of that -- and I don't want to sound like some old person, you know, `These kids today!' -- but it's the opposite of that `American Idol' style of singing. It's about not having to try so hard. It's about hearing the music. ... With great music, if you just sing it the way it's meant to be sung, there's no way it can be bad."

Lankhorst grew up listening to Sinatra records. His dad was a big fan, though his mom -- the church choir director -- thought Sinatra arrogant, and always preferred Dean Martin.

Still, early in his career, Lankhorst was more interested in musical theater. It wasn't until the swing revival of the 1980s, with the soundtrack for "When Harry Met Sally" and the rise of Harry Connick Jr., among other next-generation interpreters, that Lankhorst reconnected with the great American standards the Rat Pack popularized. Now most of Lankhorst's stage work is in concerts, revues like this one and his own solo show, bringing Nat "King" Cole, Mel Tormé and (his specialty, though he admits he's no ring-a-dinger) Frank Sinatra back to life.

"I put the hat on. I put the ring on. I'm standing backstage, and I hear the intro -- and that's it," Lankhorst says of his transformation into The Voice. "It's not me singing this music, it's me singing this music as he would. Obviously, you're not getting the real Sinatra. But with this material, you really don't want to stray too far from the original."

The Rat Pack is Back

A touring re-creation of the legendary Las Vegas lounge act of Frankie, Dean, Sammy and Joey.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday (previews); 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. next Sunday. Runs through Oct. 21.

WHERE: McGlohon Theatre, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St. ADMISSION:


DETAILS: 704-372-1000 or

City of Angels -A Brother Act

By DAVID CLOUSTON Salina Journal

Stage musicals -- especially blockbusters such as "The Sound of Music," "Oklahoma" or "The Phantom of The Opera" -- have often made musical hits from memorable individual songs.

Sometimes a song's radio popularity eclipses the musical whose score gave it life -- think "One Night in Bangkok" in 1984 from "Chess."

The unconventional pop-jazz score for "City of Angels," the upcoming musical comedy performed at Salina Community Theatre, mixes scat vocals, a swing band sound, torrid torch songs and soundtrack-style themes in a send-up of private eye movies and late 1940s' Hollywood.

"I think one thing people are really going to love about this is it's such a great score," said Gary Demuth, who plays the demonic and hammy Buddy Fidler.

Larry Gelbart -- creator and writer for the television series "M*A*S*H" and the film "Tootsie" -- wrote the script for "City of Angels."

The audience might not be familiar with the music, said Alex Lankhorst, who plays Stine, a New York novelist-turned L.A. screenwriter. "But I guarantee you there are going to be songs that they'll be whistling and humming later on, because there are some really catchy songs going on," he said.

A brother act

And singing some of those numbers will be crooner Les Lankhorst, in the guise of Los Angeles private eye Stone.

Les Lankhorst, Alex Lankhorst's younger brother, has performed throughout the world singing the swing music of the 1940s and '50s, popularized by legends such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. He's also performed regularly in his hometown of Salina.

"City of Angels" weaves together two plots -- the "real" world of a writer trying to turn his book into a screenplay, and the "reel" world of the fictional film.

Private eye Stone, Stine's creation, has problems: Miscreants gunning for him, a possibly treacherous lady client and a former cop partner who wants to pin a murder on him. Stine has authored all of those problems and some of his own: a screenplay-in-progress that doesn't do his original novel justice, a producer who's ravaging his creation, and an adulterous tryst that has not escaped his wife, who has wisely remained in New York.

Cy Coleman wrote the music and David Zippel the lyrics, including the catchy "You're Nothing Without Me," a smashing duet between the writer (Stine) and his invented hero, Stone, as the creation becomes fed up with his creator.

When "City of Angels" was being considered for the theater's 2009-2010 season, and Vickee Spicer was chosen to direct, she was talking with long-time Salina dance instructor Peggy Simms about whom to cast for Stone when Les Lankhorst's name came up.

Not since high school

"She (Simms) said: 'You know who might be fun?' and my only question was, would he do it?" Spicer said. It didn't take Les Lankhorst long to warm up to the idea.

In Las Vegas, in a tribute show to the legends of Vegas past, Lankhorst regularly plays Sinatra, making easing into a raked fedora and a trenchcoat on stage as Stone hardly a chore.

Alex Lankhorst, a long-time veteran of the community theater, said it's been fun performing with his brother.

"We haven't done a play together since high school," Alex Lankhorst said. There was a small scene in the musical "Carousel" where Alex was the male lead, and Les was a freshman.

It was that performance, and an improvised line that drew laughs when a prop flubbed on stage, that convinced Les Lankhorst that he enjoyed live theater.

"I sort of walk that line -- my shows are concerts. But because I talk a lot between songs, it becomes a more theatrical event. And sometimes I throw in some theatrical songs.

"But it's been a while since I had a script and have done any scene work," he said. "That's my favorite part so far, the acting part. I just love it."

From having played Sinatra, his brother has a little bit of swagger and attitude on stage, Alex said.

" It's really kind of funny the roles that we have," Alex said. "I'm kind of more the mild-mannered type guy, and he's the more outgoing type. At the end we come together."

Saying lines backwards

When Stine is at the typewriter he makes changes in the screenplay and with every change, the characters rewind themselves, taking the dialogue and their movements on stage backward.

"You really have to practice, practice, practice and say the lines a bunch of times to get that right," Spicer said.

Spicer said the show is filled with "lots of good laugh lines."

Fidler, the producer-director, for instance, is a stereotypical abrasive movie mogul who says of Stine's screenplay: "It's perfect. We'll fix it."

"It's fun because he gets to be so totally over the top," Demuth said of the character, whom he described as a "total narcissistic egomaniac."


n Reporter David Clouston can be reached at 822-1403 or by e-mail at


2009 MTA Musical Nominee's

Outstanding Production

Bat Boy: The MusicalActor's Theatre of Charlotte

Evil Dead: The MusicalActor's Theatre of Charlotte

Les Lankhorst: Red, Hot & Swing! – Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Peter PanChildren's Theatre of Charlotte

The Full MontyTheatre Charlotte


Outstanding Direction

Alan PoindexterPeter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Billy EnsleyBat Boy: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Billy EnsleyEvil Dead: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Dennis DelamarThe Full Monty – Theatre Charlotte

Kerry FergusonSlut – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte


Outstanding Choreography

Eddie MabryEvil Dead: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Eddie MabryThe Full Monty – Theatre Charlotte

Ron ChisholmDisney's High School Musical – Central Piedmont Community College

Ron ChisholmPeter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Ron ChisholmThe Producers – Central Piedmont CC Summer Theatre


Outstanding Musical Direction/Conducting

Drina KeenPeter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Marty GregoryBat Boy: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Marty GregoryEvil Dead: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Noel Friedline/Les Lankhorst – Les Lankhorst: Red, Hot & Swing! – Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Ryan StameyThe Full Monty – Theatre Charlotte


Outstanding Lighting Design

David M. Fillmore, Jr.Peter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Eric Winkenwerder Alice in Concert – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Hallie GrayBat Boy: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Samuel Guine 3rdLes Lankhorst: Red, Hot & Swing! – Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Trista RotheThe Full Monty – Theatre Charlotte


Outstanding Sound Design

Chip DeckerBat Boy: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Chip DeckerEvil Dead: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Elisheba IttoopPeter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Robert A. SchonemanLes Lankhorst: Red, Hot & Swing! – Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Ryan J. GastelumAlice in Concert – Children's Theatre of Charlotte


Outstanding Set Design

Chip DeckerBat Boy: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Chris TimmonsThe Full Monty – Theatre Charlotte

Gillian AlbinskiLes Lankhorst: Red, Hot & Swing! – Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Jayme MellemaPeter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Tim ParatiThe True Story of the Three Little Pigs – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

 Outstanding Technical Effect

Chip Deckerblood effects – Evil Dead: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

David M. Fillmore, Jr.Tinker Bell effect – Peter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Drew Nowlinzombie moose head – Evil Dead: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Melissa Brownmake-up design – Bat Boy: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

ZFX, Inc.flying effects – Peter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte


Other Exemplary Performance/Element

Charlotte's Own small BIG Band – onstage band – Les Lankhorst: Red, Hot & Swing! – Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Melissa Brown and Martin Barryspecial make-up and effects – Evil Dead: The Musical – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Oompa Loompasensemble – Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka (TYA) – Central Piedmont CC Summer Theatre

Stephen Westerfield – cello performance – Les Lankhorst: Red, Hot & Swing! – Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

The Lost Boysensemble – Peter Pan – Children's Theatre of Charlotte

2009 Charlotte, NC MTA Nominees (Sep 8, 2009)
"Dear Les,
Your performance last Thursday night was transcendent. I never saw Frank Sinatra live but watching you, hearing you, and being mesmerized by you during 'My Way' must be what it would have felt like to see Frank perform live. What an extraordinary performance!- thank you.
All the best,
Debra Lucchi"
Debra Lucchi - Personal Thank You (Dec 4, 2006)
Hi Les!
Thanks so much for your sweet note. Jon and I absolutely loved your show!!! And we are so enjoying the CD that we bought! It just could not have been a more perfect evening! Many thanks for sharing your incredible talent with your Alma Mater! We look forward to having you back at K-State often!
All the best from your friends,
Jon and Ruth Ann Wefald
RuthAnn Wefald, wife of KSU President - Personal email (Sep 10, 2007)
Concert to benefit Salina Blue Jays
Salina Journal

Swing singer Les Lankhorst hopes to swing a home run for a local baseball team.

Lankhorst, a Salina native, is a professional singer who has performed concerts of classic standards, swing and big band music throughout the world.

On July 20, he will be performing a benefit concert for the Salina Blue Jays, a summer college baseball program. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. at the Salina South High School auditorium. Tickets cost $10 each.

Lankhorst was asked to perform the concert by Blue Jays general manager Larry Henoch, who had been a longtime friend and business associate of Lankhorst's father, Han, at Conklin Cars, 2700 S. Ninth.

"The team has a lot of expenses, so I was willing to help out however I could," Les Lankhorst said.

Lankhorst will perform an hourlong version of his regular two-hour show, which will include swing classics originally performed by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bobby Darin.

Henoch hopes Lankhorst's concert will help draw more attention to the Blue Jays and sell more tickets to games, as well as help finance travel expenses to out-of-town games.

The Salina Blue Jays consist of college players who pay a fee to play in the summer league. Players from junior colleges hope to attract scholarships to four-year colleges. For others, it is an opportunity to improve their skills, Henoch said.

Other funding for the nonprofit organization comes from private donations and such fundraisers as golf tournaments.

This summer, growing travel expenses that include higher gas prices and van rentals have taken their toll on the Blue Jays' budget, Henoch said.

"We took a trip to Springfield (Mo.) this summer," he said. "When you rent two vans with 17 players, a coach and myself, and then you have to feed those horses, an overnight trip costs $1,800. Then the game got rained out."
`Rat Pack' reprisal teaches students importance of school
Actors in re-creation playing at theater visit magnet school
Nicholas Brooks worked his way through the multipurpose room, amid hundreds of students who were born after the mid-1990s, launching into his role as Sammy Davis Jr. by singing the old standard "The Candy Man."

To his surprise, the young crowd at University Park Creative Arts Elementary School joined in, singing the chorus.

"Where did you learn that?" Brooks asked the students afterwards.

"It was in `Madagascar,' " a little girl named Janeal responded, referring to the animated film of a few years ago.

"Ahh -- that's right," Brooks said.

He and other members of the touring stage show "The Rat Pack," which is in Charlotte for a monthlong run, spent more than an hour recently at University Park, a creative arts magnet school. The stage show is organized by Sandy Hackett, son of the late comedian Buddy Hackett.

They talked to students about the hard work necessary to make it in show business, and how the famous stars whose roles they re-create -- Davis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop -- also had to labor for years to reach the top.

And they were reminded that some of the songs they perform have become classics, even to children who are much more familiar with the music of Beyonce.

It was the first time Hackett's version of the Rat Pack visited a school, but cast members said they weren't intimidated.

"Everyone's been on stage so much that we know how to entertain," said Hackett, who reprises the role of Bishop. "Some of us also are parents, so we can talk from that perspective."

Hackett made an impression with students at University Park by telling them that his father was the voice of the character Scuttle in "Little Mermaid."

Once the cast members -- Hackett, Brooks, Les Lankhorst (Frank Sinatra), Bobby Mayo Jr. (Dean Martin) and Rick Kanfer (the group's manager) -- connected with students, they made their sales pitch.

"I know a lot of people in here want to be a success in dance or singing, but there are not many jobs available out there," Hackett told the students. "You need to work hard."

"Do your homework and be prepared," Lankhorst advised. "That will get you ready to work hard in this business."

The group's visit to the school resulted from a chance encounter between Hackett and District Court Judge Tim Smith, whose children attend University Park.

"We saw them at Blumenthal, and in a meet-and-greet event after the show, I asked Sandy if he'd be willing to come to the school," Smith said. "Much to my surprise, he called me the next day and said he'd be happy to come out. The next thing I knew, the whole group was coming."
Home for the Holiday
Christmas Concert

By Gary Demuth

Salina Journal

"... Les is an outstanding talent, and it's great that he's a local guy who travels the world telling everyone about Salina." Tom Wilbur, banker and Last National Band guitarist

It's been more than 20 years since Salinan Les Lankhorst, his brother Alex and sister Cristel began singing the Amy Grant ballad "Heirlooms" during Christmas services at their Trinity United Methodist Church.

For Les Lankhorst, the Christmas season wouldn't be the same without it.

"It's the one time of year all of us try to get home," he said. "It's just always been a part of our Christmas."

It's not always easy for the siblings to get together. Although Alex lives in Salina, Cristel is in Minnesota and Les has made the globe his home for the past 15 years as he pursues a professional singing career.

Les Lankhorst sings classic swing songs of the 1940s and '50s that were immortalized by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. and re-popularized by contemporary singers like Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble. He also played his musical idol Sinatra in a theatrical show called "The Rat Pack," in Las Vegas and Charlotte, N.C.

Lankhorst has performed his solo swing show in Salina at the Salina Community Theatre, Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts and the Smoky Hill River Festival. He also performed a swing and strings concert with the Salina Symphony last May.

He's rented the Salina Community Theatre for a Christmas show, called "Les Lankhorst: I'll Be Home for Christmas," set to run Dec. 21-23.

Music will include "Heirlooms," which Lankhorst plans to sing with his brother and sister. Other Christmas tunes will include "O Holy Night," "The Christmas Song," and swinging versions of "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

The last two songs were included in the late Lou Rawls' final recording, a Christmas album recorded just before the singer died in 2006. The music charts for the songs were provided by Rawls' musical director, who also happened to be musical director for "The Rat Pack" show Lankhorst performed in Charlotte.

"I made a special arrangement with him to use those two songs in my Salina show," Lankhorst said.

Local singers and musicians

A few friends have been invited to accompany Lankhorst on several songs, including Salina South High School vocal ensemble New Dawn Singers.

"New Dawn is the group I started with at South," Lankhorst said. "They're going to sing a very special song with me at the end of the show."

The concert will not be comprised entirely of Christmas music, but will be a blend of holiday songs and swing tunes from his regular show, Lankhorst said.

As with his previous Salina shows, Lankhorst's musical director will be Gayle McMillen, a Salina pianist who has helped Lankhorst arrange songs for a seven-piece band that includes drums, guitar, bass and four horns.

"I try to line up the best musicians I can," McMillen said. "There are some instrumental challenges here, so I pick musicians I know are going to approach it professionally and also will have a lot of fun doing it."

McMillen said he enjoys supporting Lankhorst in his local concert appearances.

"I watched him grow up in church," McMillen said. "I helped him make his first swing tune tapes when he was a youngster. He's come a long way since then."

One of Lankhorst's biggest fans and supporters is Tom Wilbur, whose daughter Brooke will join Lankhorst for a duet in the show.

"Clearly Les is an outstanding talent, and it's great that he's a local guy who travels the world telling everyone about Salina," said Wilbur, a banker and guitarist for the local rock group Last National Band. "He loves to bring his music and his show back to his hometown."

For this concert, Lankhorst said he would like nothing better than to recreate the atmosphere of classic Christmas television specials hosted by singers such as Andy Williams and Bing Crosby.

"They created a very intimate feeling with their Christmas shows," Lankhorst said. "That's what I want to do. When people come to my show, I want them to feel like they're coming to my living room -- a living room with cool lighting and a good sound system."

n Reporter Gary Demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by e-mail at
Written by Sandy Hackett and Dick Feeney
Directed by Ben Lokey
Musical Direction by Lon Bronson
Produced by Dick Feeney and Sandy Hackett
Produced by Arthur Petrie
Lighting design by Christilyn Lake
(All of the aforementioned are part of the original creative team
along with DonLee Cardejon.)
September 25-October 21, McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square
The McGlohon Theatre has been magically transformed into an intimate Vegas Club with the addition of a deco style proscenium designed by Gillian Albinski and installed by The Hohman Group. Also, the removal of most of the front orchestra seats and the presence of bistro tables and chairs, along with the wait staff to bring beverages and snacks out to you, makes the transformation work.

“In the Beginning…..” there was the voice of God (Buddy Hackett) telling: "the boys” they had to return for one more show…” This was followed by a nostalgic montage of black & white film clips showing movie, fashion and music icons of the sixties along with shots of the billboards and signs along the Vegas Strip of that era, cumulating in the reversal of the implosion of The Sands Resort.

The memories of childhood, watching film in black & white again, is carried throughout the show. Other than Sammy’s brown suit and a few flowers and sight gags, everything is black, white or gray.

The jokes are a little risqué, but this is supposed to be Vegas, and almost anything goes there. The jokes are timeless, only a few modernized lines, (the mentioning of Viagra is an updated insertion). I loved the line about the Native Americans taking back America one casino at a time.

Dean Martin, beautifully portrayed by Bobby Mayo Jr., sang several tunes that took me back to my childhood. Loved the way he sang “That’s Amore.” Heard several people afterward mention it brought tears to their eyes, or smiles at the memories it invoked.

Nicholas Orestes Brook was impressive as Sammy Davis Jr.; I wanted to sing and dance along with “That Old Black Magic,” and “What Kind of Fool am I?” but when he got to “Mr. Bojangles” I got chills running up and down my spine.

The irreverent and irrepressible Joey Bishop was played (or maybe improvised is a better word) magnificently by Sandy Hackett, son of the comedian, Buddy Hackett. Author, actor, vocalist, comedian and producer are a few of the titles Sandy Hackett can call himself. The Catskill or Vegas style schtick along with the continual audience interaction and constant improvisation made for some fantastic running jokes throughout the show.

Les Lankhorst has taken on the role of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, with remarkable ease. “Come Fly with Me,” ”I’ve Got you Under my Skin,” and “Fly Me to the Moon,” brought back memories of evenings at my grandmother’s. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without “My Way” or “New York, New York.”

The soft-shoe during “Me and My Shadow” with Frank and Sammy was wonderful. The hilarious hi-jinx (especially like those during “A Foggy day in London Town”), the ribald jokes, the inter-play between the cast makes this more of a historical reenactment than a play. The ensemble pieces like “Luck be a Lady Tonight” and “The Lady is a Tramp” had many in the audience chair dancing.

Several times the on-stage orchestra was brought into the mix. They were introduced as Charlotte’s “Best Little Orchestra” comprising local musicians. Piano player, Adam Watkins; bass player, Tom Hildreth; drummer, Rick Dior; saxophone players, Phil Thompson, Will Campbell, Tim Gordon, and Jack Murray; trumpet players, Ron Turner, Brad Wilcox, Jon Thorton; and trombone players, Mark Munson and Brent Ballard.

By the way, have I mentioned that I love this show? Review by Karen Lambruschi

Sinatra tribute does it his way By: Brian Kennedy Issue date: 3/31/04 Section: Entertainment PrintEmail DoubleClick Any Word Page 1 of 1 Whether you knew him as The Chairman of the Board, The Voice, or Ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra made a permanent impact on American pop culture that will be felt for decades, if not centuries, to come. "My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra" will roll into Laxson Auditorium on Friday for a performance that will attempt to squeeze his life, times and songs into one night. This performance is touted as an interpretation, not an imitation of Sinatra's work, using two men and two women to sing the songs and play various parts. Among its more than 50 songs, "My Way" includes solos, duets and even parts where all four members get in on the action. The cast includes New York performers Les Lankhorst, Nancie Sanderson, Steve Parmenter and Natalie Silverlieb. A three-piece band also accompanies the players. A mere 961 miles away from Chico, Lankhorst discusses his enthusiasm for the show and Sinatra's life from his hotel room in Grand Junction, Colo. "It's some of the best music ever written," he said. "Sinatra is every guy's guy and every woman's guy." While Sinatra's genre of music has its foundation with an older generation of fans, the 36-year-old Lankhorst says that he is not surprised to see a younger crowd at the show. Lankhorst hopes coming to the Chico State will stir up interest in old-fashioned styles of music. "I discovered this kind of music in college listening to Harry Connick," Lankhorst said. Originally from Kansas, Lankhorst graduated with a degree in social sciences from Kansas State before finding his way to New York and becoming a professional singer. The "My Way" troupe started its journey last fall with a handful of performances in the New York City area. After two months of vacation in the winter, Lankhorst said the performances started back up in Florida and have eventually made their way through Colorado. "We've seen so much of the country. I can't imagine a better career," Lankhorst said. The cast has pounded the miles of pavement during the trip in what Lankhorst describes as a "van/bus." "Last night a guy thought the van was an airport shuttle and tried to get on." But even though the cast has snaked its way through America, the schedule hasn't left much time for sightseeing. "Durango, Colo., is one of my top spots so far; it's very beautiful," Lankhorst said of one of the few places he was able to explore. The group doesn't get a chance to get out and see every town they travel through, Lankhorst said. The caravan of cast and crew are in and out of towns constantly, sometimes spending more than 10 hours a day on the road. Lankhorst says they all have a Walkman for music, some of them read books and all of them enjoy sleeping while grinding down the interstate. Chico will be the second-to-last stop for "My Way," which will have its final performance in Fremont. But once this gig is over, Lankhorst has only three days to reflect on his cross-country escapade before he will report for duty at Celebrity Cruises. He will be spending the summer performing his own musical revue on the waves of the Mediterranean Sea. Lankhorst has already planned to spend some of his shore leave at the Olympic Games in Greece. Lankhorst found out about the job opening for "My Way" while on a previous tour of duty with Celebrity. He was floating off the coast of Ireland when a friend suggested he audition for the part. And from the sound of his voice, you can tell Lankhorst doesn't regret the decision. Somewhere between reminiscing about the past and planning for the future, Lankhorst says he is confident that "My Way" will make an impression on every audience member, no matter their age or musical taste. "They'll definitely leave the show humming," he said. Brian Kennedy can be reached at

Brian Kennedy - The Orion (Mar 31, 2004)
Big Band Music and Songs at the Stiefel
Singer is looking forward to performing with a full orchestra
Salina Journal

Salina native Les Lankhorst will perform with the Salina Symphony
Les Lankhorst is ready to singMy Waythe way it meant to be sung with a full, big band.
When Lankhorst musical idol, Frank Sinatra, first crooned the song that became one of his signature tunes, it was done with a full orchestra violins, cellos, horns and percussion included.
That the way classic swing and pop tunes of the Big Band era were meant to be performed, said Lankhorst, a Salina native who has worked as a professional singer in Las Vegas, New York and worldwide at resorts and on cruise ships.
The music I do is made for big orchestras,he said.Singers like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin and Peggy Lee always had 18- or 22-piece bands backing them.
Now Lankhorst will have the opportunity to croon big band classics with a 50-instrument-plus band The Salina Symphony.
A Salute to Big Band,this season closing concert for the Salina Symphony, will be at 4 p.m. Sunday at The Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, 151 S. Santa Fe.
Classic tunes
Lankhorst will perform about 10 standard big band classics such asMy Way,Come Fly With MeandThat Life,as well as contemporary tunes likeBring Him Homefrom the musicalLes Miserables.
Lankhorst, who is used to fronting smaller ensembles, said he is looking forward to the lush sound of a full orchestra, especially one as talented and versatile as the Salina Symphony.
It a golden opportunity for me, and I couldnt be more excited,he said.
Lankhorst performed several concerts in Salina last year at the Salina Community Theatre and the Stiefel.
He also performed at the Smoky Hill River Festival and the Salina Country Club. His back-up band at those concerts included several Salina Symphony members.
For those concerts, Lankhorst provided musicians with sheet music charts specific to their instruments. For the symphony concert, he didnt have charts available for string instruments.
It was no problem for Ken Hakoda, Salina Symphony conductor and music director. He volunteered to do all the string arrangements himself.
Every time a guest soloist comes in, I usually write the orchestrations for them anyway,he said.It was easier with Les, because he already had the parts written for percussion and horns, so I didnt have to write everything from scratch.
Orchestrating big band music, Hakoda said, was fun and different than most classical music-based concerts.
Were going to play some light, classical music in the first half of the concert and then let the orchestra swing during the second half,he said.
The first half of the concert includes a little-heard rendition ofPomp and Circumstance,the perennial graduation day march.
People hear it at graduations, but they dont hear the other part of it,Hakoda said.The second part is really great, too.
What: Salina Symphony "Salute to Big Band," featuring Les Lankhorst.
When: 4pm Sunday
Where: The Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, 151 S. Santa Fe
Tickets: $17 for adults, $11 for students
Information: 827-1998 or online at or
Reporter Gary Demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by e-mail at

CopyrightSalina Journal
"I would like to comment on how wonderful the concert was at the Stiefel that Les Lankhorst gave the other evening. I think he needs to come back for a Christmas program. That would be wonderful. What nice entertainment we have in Salina."
- The Salina Journal (Jul 12, 2006)
Artists can do it their way
Les Lankhorst the first to use SCT stage to put on own show
David Clouston
Salina Journal

Singers, bands and theater groups have a new venue in Salina to showcase their talents -- the Salina Community Theatre.

Courtesy art
Les Lankhorst will star in "Les Lankhorst Live," an expanded version of his solo show, at the Salina Community Theatre, 303 E. Iron. Now artists can rent the stage, sharing the proceeds with SCT.

The theater stage will be made available, on open dates, for rental, with the rental fee augmented by a sharing of the ticket revenue.

If the performer sells a lot of tickets, both they and the theater will do well. If the performer sells fewer tickets and doesn't do as well, "The theater won't be in a position to lose money on it," said Michael Spicer, executive director of the community theater.

The new Theatre After Dark program will kick off May 12-13 with a show called "Les Lankhorst Live." Lankhorst, a Salinan, is best known for his interpretations of classic Frank Sinatra songs such as "Come Fly With Me" and "I've Got the World on a String." He's a frequent performer on cruise ships and in concert halls. Last fall, he played to sold-out performances in Las Vegas in the hit show "The Rat Pack," a tribute to Sinatra and pals Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin.

Tickets for Lankhorst's Salina show cost $15. The show starts at 8 p.m. both nights. There will be a cash bar and hors d'oeuvres.

"It'll be an expanded version of my solo show, with music from the Rat Pack era. It's a real nice blend of old stuff, with a little bit of Broadway and a little bit of pop thrown in," Lankhorst said.

Lankhorst, while in Salina visiting family, did a sampling of music numbers at a Salina Rotary Club meeting attended by some members of the community theater's board. That sparked discussions about bringing him to the theater's stage.

"They've got, in my opinion, the best space in town for a variety of acts," Lankhorst said.

The theater seats 290, about a fourth as many as the Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts at Walnut and South Santa Fe.

Spicer said the theater could be available for six to 10 shows a year.

"There's some flexibility in the calendar right now that we're trying to explore," he said.
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy - Meet me at the Corner of Broadway and Swing, sponsored by
Wednesday, August 16

Meet me at the Corner of Broadway and Swing
Wed, Aug. 16 - Sun, Aug. 27

Hot Summer Nights brings you another fabulous season-ender concert under the musical direction of the talented Kelsey Halbert. Halbert returns after the success of last year's season closer "Beyond Broadway" with electrifying music and an amazing performing duo that is sure to take the audience goers back to the days of swing, jazz and then some! A fabulous selection of tunes, a phenomenal band and the amazing talents of Broadway's Jennifer Shrader and crooner Les Lankhorst is one sure-fire way to wrap up those Hot Summer Nights.

Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy produced its first summer season in 2005, bringing in Broadway talent such as Kate Shindle, Lauren Kennedy, and Alan Campbell. The concept is simple: to keep the lights of the Kennedy Theatre on during the summer and to employ the finest talent in the area and the US, and bring them to Downtown Raleigh for 60 sizzlin’ nights.

Check out our website for more information!
Lankhorst brings one-man show here

Les Lankhorst will return to Salina with his solo show "Les Lankhorst LIVE!" at 8 p.m. May 12 and 13 at the Salina Community Theatre.

Local musicians Gayle McMillen & the Boys and others will join Lankhorst on stage.

Tickets are available at the theater box office, 827-3033 or online at www.salinatheatre. com.

Lankhorst, from Salina, performs his one-man show all over the world on cruise ships, in resorts and at concert venues. Last fall, Lankhorst starred as Frank Sinatra in the sold-out show "The Tribute to Frank, Joey, Sammy and Dean -- The Rat Pack" in Las Vegas.

Lankhorst has appeared in various film and television projects including "Law & Order," "The Rear Window" and "In & Out." He was Robert Redford's bodyguard in the Dreamworks film "The Last Castle."

This week, Les reprises his role as Pilate in Salina Community Theater's concert version of "Jesus Christ Superstar."
- The Salina Journal (Apr 14, 2006)
"If you like Sinatra, you'll LOVE this guy!"
The Carillon Online (Jan 20, 2005)
Les Lankhorst, who has been performing as a swing singer since the 1990s, said the singers do not attempt to impersonate Sinatra. Rather, the singers try to capture some of the flavor of the songs Sinatra made famous, he said.
"The show is not as if anyone is trying to imitate Sinatra," Lankhorst said. "It's a tribute to the music Sinatra made famous. All of the songs are our own interpretation, but it's all within the framework of his style."
Sinatra's music has universal appeal, Lankhorst said.
"I like to say, and I really do believe, that sometimes the simplest things in life are the most enduring," Lankhorst said. "In those days, melody was simple and catchy."
"To me, it's the beauty and the simplicity of the music and the writing" that has helped it last for generations, he said. "It's the greatest music ever written for singers, I think."
The evening, Lankhorst said, will appeal to swing and Sinatra fans of all ages. "I think it's positive, beautiful music, so it's a pleasure for us to be able to share it," he said. "I think (the audience) can expect an unexpected evening. It's full of music, but there's humor and a little bit of drama. I think people will walk away humming."
James Mayse - The Messenger-Inquirer (Mar 12, 2004)
November 18, 2005

'The Rat Pack'
Lankhorst's biggest challenge was learning to play the essence of Sinatra's persona in the Las Vegas show

Gary Demuth
Salina Journal

Songs for Sinatra

Ever since he can remember, Les Lankhorst was enraptured by the classic songs of Frank Sinatra.
Years later, he's portraying his idol on a Las Vegas stage.

Lankhorst, 38, has been a professional singer for 12 years, performing in nightclubs and cruise ships throughout the world. In recent years, he has developed a concert show that includes such Sinatra classics as "Come Fly With Me" and "I've Got the World on a String."

Lankhorst is the son of Salinans Han and Eva Lankhorst and is a 1985 graduate of Salina South High School.

Singing talent runs in the family: His brother Alex a teacher at South, acts and sings in local theater productions, and his sister Christel is a singer-songwriter in a Christian band in Minnesota.

In October, Les Lankhorst saw a casting notice for a show called "The Rat Pack," a theatrical tribute to the 1960s "summit" concerts of Sinatra and fellow entertainers Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop. The show has been playing to sold-out houses for two years in the Star Theatre at the Greek Isles Hotel and Casino, just off the Las Vegas strip.

Producers were looking for someone to temporarily replace the actor who played Sinatra, so Lankhorst sent them one of his concert tapes. He was flown to Chicago to audition and was offered the part.

"I've been listening to Sinatra my whole life, so it wasn't a stretch to make myself sing like him -- it was just getting in the right mindset to actually be him," Lankhorst said.

Lankhorst is contracted to play Sinatra from Sunday to Dec. 18. After that, he hopes to open the show in Chicago or New York and be part of a national tour planned for next year.

In the meantime, he will get plenty of exposure from the Vegas show. About a week after his opening, the show will be taped by a public broadcasting station for airing on PBS stations around the country.

"I'm really lucky I was able to come into this show when I did," he said.

Lankhorst described "The Rat Pack" as a nearly literal re-creation of an hour and a half classic performance by Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey at the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel during their peak years, in the early 1960s.

"There's old-fashioned seating, with tables and booths," he said. "Even 'Marilyn Monroe' shows up at one point to sing 'Happy Birthday' to a member of the audience."

Also there, nearly every night, is the club maitre d' from the original Rat Pack shows. He's now 82 and richer than many of the entertainers who play Vegas, Lankhorst said.

"Back then, celebrities would come in the Copa and slip him hundred dollar bills as tips," he said. "The guy doesn't have to work anymore, but he loves to come to the show. It makes him feel like he's back there again, when tickets were just $3.35."

Blending into a long-running show was not a difficult task for Lankhorst -- he already had performed most of the songs featured in the show in his nightclub act. His biggest challenge was learning to play the essence of Sinatra's persona without falling into a mere impersonation.

"I'm playing the character 'Sinatra,' not the actual person," Lankhorst said. "I was once told that when you play a real person on stage, you've got to be able to do two out of three things: You have to look like him, sound like him or capture his attitude.

"I don't look anything like Sinatra, but I think I do the other two things pretty well."
Gary Demuth - The Salina Journal (Nov 18, 2005)
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