Forget the Rat Pack, time for Brit Pack to take over

Twins Jon and Chris Hibbard from Rotherham, part of the Crooners show at Cast, Doncaster
Twins Jon and Chris Hibbard from Rotherham, part of the Crooners show at Cast, Doncaster

A new show designed to appeal to fans of the Rat Pack and the smooth music of the times, but with a decidedly British twist, is coming to Doncaster next week.

Sheffield-born twins Jon and Chris Hibbard, who grew up in Rotherham, have helped to create Crooners.

Jon said that he and his brother are both part of a collection of musicians who have all known each other on the freelance circuit, doing Rat Pack shows.

They all got fed up for doing gigs for other people that started to feel repetitive in their formats and the songs they performed, so they decided to create a new show.

Jon said: “We wanted to write a British script with a return to the days of variety, using the music of the crooners to tell the story that we’re the last three crooners.”

In true British style, the crooners don’t take themselves too seriously, said Jon.

“They’re trying to be suave and sophisticated and it all goes wrong.”

He added:”It’s a return to Morecambe and Wise variety. Things are falling down and blowing up and there are all sorts of misdemeanours.

“We’ve got the tongue firmly in cheek as we’re doing this. The guys are being themselves and not having to play Frank Sinatra and do all those jokes that are quite dated now.

“They’re quite racist or don’t fit the audience now.

“It’s British humour with some amazing moustaches!” Not to mention some sharp suits.

They take the music seriously, though, and the crooners are backed by a proper modern swing big band.

Jon said: “All the guys have been jazz musicians and they’ve all gone through the best conservatories and music colleges.”

One of the crooners is former Manchester City and Northern Ireland footballer Jim Whitley, who crossed over to the world of theatre when an injury ended his playing career.

Jon said: “He always fancied singing and developed as a tap dancer as well. He earns his money as an artist now.”

Jim has performed as Sammy Davis Jr on The Rat Pack Tour alongside a West End cast and has also performed songs by Nat King Cole, whose music features in the Crooners show.

He is joined by Philip Barley, a seasoned Dean Martin and musicals performer, and Roman Marek, who has often taken the role of Frank Sinatra.

Widening out the show means that they can perform the songs of British crooners like Matt Monro, using his original musical arrangements, as well as hits by Bobby Darin and Tony Bennett.

Of course, the Rat Pack trio of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr still get a look-in.

Jon said: “We’re really loving that we’re not hindered by any of that but we’ve got some really lovely old Frank Sinatra in there as well.

“They do a lovely comical tribute to them in the second act, with songs like My Kind of Girl.”

He added: We know the audience better than anyone. It’s something we have been gagging to do for years.

“The timing is just perfect, one of the big tours has just stopped going out and theatres just want something new.

“We’re lining up some big dates in 2018.”