Reilly's Sinatra show celebrates centennial

Craig Horleman
Posted 7/2/15

Sean Reilly figures it’s now or never. Mr. Reilly, a Wilmington singer who performs in the style of Frank Sinatra, is taking the opportunity of the 100th anniversary of Mr. Sinatra’s birth on …

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Reilly's Sinatra show celebrates centennial


Sean Reilly figures it’s now or never.

Mr. Reilly, a Wilmington singer who performs in the style of Frank Sinatra, is taking the opportunity of the 100th anniversary of Mr. Sinatra’s birth on Dec. 12, 1915, to perform what he calls “Sinatra 101” at the Premier Centre for the Arts at The Milton Theatre July 18.

“We can only do this once — in his 100th year,” Mr. Reilly said.

With a six-piece band, dubbed the Sinatra Centennial Orchestra, directed by fellow Wilmington musician David Zipse, Mr. Reilly not only will sing Sinatra favorites but tell the stories behind the songs.

Sean Reilly will bring his “Sinatra 101” show to the Premier Centre for the Arts at the Milton Theatre July 18 at 8 p.m. Mr. Reilly, of Wilmington, who emulates the Sinatra sound will sing the Chairman of the Board’s classics as well as tell stories about the making of the music. (Submitted photo) Sean Reilly will bring his “Sinatra 101” show to the Premier Centre for the Arts at the Milton Theatre July 18 at 8 p.m. Mr. Reilly, of Wilmington, who emulates the Sinatra sound will sing the Chairman of the Board’s classics as well as tell stories about the making of the music. (Submitted photo)[/caption]

“A song is just a song until it gets into Sinatra’s orbit, then it becomes a story,” said Mr. Reilly, who has been a Sinatra fanatic since he was very young.

“I used to listen to Frank when I was about 7 years old and hear him singing about heartache. I didn’t really understand the pain he was singing about but I understood the music.”

Mr. Reilly, 58, says he emulates the Sinatra sound, distinguishing it from imitation.

“People ask, ‘Do you think you’re Sinatra? I say no. I don’t come out on stage with a cigarette and a hat. I do try to sing like him though,” said Mr. Reilly, who bears a strong resemblance to Ol’ Blue Eyes.

An executive recruiter by day, Mr. Reilly’s second career really took off in 2009 when he won the Frank Sinatra Idol Contest in Hoboken, New Jersey, Mr. Sinatra’s birthplace.

Singing “The Best Is Yet to Come,” Mr. Reilly beat out a dozen other Sinatra wannabes.

Since then, he has been performing around the area, including stints at Dover Downs’ Fire & Ice and also the Smyrna Opera House back in 2011.

The show he will perform in Milton and then in October at the Baby Grand in Wilmington is bigger than his normal appearances at restaurants and nightclubs.

Using the original arrangements, Mr. Reilly says Mr. Zipse will help the theater come alive.

“We take the charts and then we pare them down because we don’t have a 30-piece orchestra. But David is a musical savant and he fills in the missing parts,” Mr. Reilly said.

“He’s one of the most masterful musicians this state has ever known. He teaches four different instruments and plays five of them. He orchestrates, conducts and arranges. He’s really something special.”Best Bets logo CLEAR copy

For Mr. Zipse’s part, he’s ready to roll.

“These songs call for horns. Sinatra always had a big band, and some of the best arrangers ever. We tried putting together a full big band, with five trumpets, four trombones, five saxes and a rhythm section, and it sounded great,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it was not financially viable these days. So we found some great charts for three horns — trumpet, trombone and sax — plus rhythm, that capture the essence of the original recordings.

“Authenticity is important to Sean, for he feels the audience knows these songs, exactly the way Frank did them,” Mr. Zipse said. “So with great charts and some of the best musicians around, this band is hot.”

Along with the music, the stories are an important part of the show. Mr. Reilly says much of what he imparts on stage is what he hears from folks after his shows.

“I’ll get people coming up to me telling me that they knew someone who knew Frank. Or they themselves knew Frank. Everyone has a story it seems when it comes to Frank,” he said.

One tale he recounts comes from the 1966 recording of “That’s Life.”

Mr. Sinatra had sold his Reprise record label to Warner Bros., a few years before and was recording the song for the new owners when he did it in one take and prepared to leave.

He was told they wanted a second take and when he became irate, he was informed he wasn’t the boss anymore.

“So he brought everyone back in the studio and started to really bark out the lyrics. He then realized that the song was really starting to soar and he just flew with it,” Mr. Reilly said.

“That attitude made all the difference in the world and made it the hit that it was.”

Although you’ll get the stories behind the music, don’t expect to hear much gossip.

“The boozing and the womanizing, I don’t care about all that. I just care about the essence of the man,” Mr. Reilly said. “That’s what’s most important to me.”

To his mind, Mr. Sinatra “made the greatest music ever produced by a male. Barbra Streisand may need to be in there.”

Due to an ear injury at birth, Mr. Sinatra was declared 4F and was disallowed from serving during World War II. But Mr. Reilly says he probably did more for the war effort than anyone.

“Girls needed a substitute for the boyfriends who were overseas. They needed that idol worship while their men were away,” he said.

“He then ended up having a 60-year career. That’s unheard of these days. He probably shook more hands than anyone outside of the Queen of England.

“What this one human being did in one life, we’ll never see again.”

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $25 and can be obtained by calling The Milton Theatre at (302) 684-3038 or visiting

The Milton Theatre is at 110 Union St.

Mendte in the morning

There is a change in the local radio airwaves.

iHeartMedia Delaware announced this week that Larry Mendte has been named morning show host at Dover’s WDOV (1410-AM) and Wilmington’s WILM (1450-AM), effective immediately.

“Larry is an extraordinary talent who has the unique ability to engage audiences across all demographics,” said Chris Walus, regional market president of iHeartMedia-Delaware. He has an impressive record of success in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Diego. Delaware listeners will be incredibly impressed with his ability to connect, engage and inform.”

Locally, Mr. Mendte was a news anchor at Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV and then KYW-TV from 1997 until 2007. He was also formerly the anchor of the entertainment news show “Access Hollywood.”

Mr. Mendte most recently served as an on-air host at WABC Radio in New York.

“I could not be prouder to join iHeartMedia Delaware and to continue to deliver news and opinion so close to where

I was born and raised,” said Mr. Mendte, a native of Landsdowne, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

He will occupy the 5 to 9 a.m. slot.

Nature artists sought

Nature-inspired artists and artisans are invited to participate in the third annual Arts in the Estuary, an event that features artwork, activities and demonstrations at the St. Jones Reserve and the John Dickinson Plantation near Dover.

Reservations to exhibit are being accepted by the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve for the event scheduled for Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., rain or shine.

Each exhibitor will receive a free 10 feet by 10 feet exhibit space, available either inside or outside the Reserve or Plantation buildings.

Registrations can be made at, by contacting Maggie Pletta, DNERR educator coordinator, at, or calling (302) 739-6377.

Arts in the Estuary celebrates coastal and estuarine conservation, research and education at the St. Jones Reserve and highlights the work accomplished there to establish, protect and manage estuarine habitats for research and education.

The event, held in partnership with the John Dickinson Plantation, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (Delaware Department of State) and the Delaware Native Plant Society’s Annual Plant Sale, celebrates National Estuaries Week by exploring the estuary through an artistic and historic viewpoint.

Sea Witch expands

Another big announcement about a fall festival came recently when the Rehoboth Beach–Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce announced that WRDE Coast TV, an NBC affiliate in eastern Sussex, will be the first Official Mega Monster Sponsor for the 26th Annual Sea Witch Halloween & Fiddlers’ Festival scheduled Oct. 23–25.

WRDE also will provide television coverage of the weekend events.

This year the festival will expand both in activities and geographic area. Delaware Seashore State Park will play host to a Sea Witch Brew ‘n’ Que Kansas City BBQ Society-sanctioned competition.

Also, the Governor’s Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is expanding their partnership with the chamber and festival to promote documented physical activity while raising money for Special Olympics and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware. During the festival, Gov. Jack Markell will announce the status of his 1-million mile challenge issued to all Delawareans.

The event draws between 175,000 and 200,000 visitors over the three-day weekend.

Now showing

New in theaters this weekend are the sequels “Terminator:Genisys 3D” and “Magic Mike XXL”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds in “Woman in Gold.”

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