Easy Street brings the Rat Pack to DeYor

Easy Street Productions is putting together its own Mahoning Valley Rat Pack for a “Las Vegas Valentine” concert.

It is the first of three concerts in the Youngstown Symphony Society’s 2013 Hometown Heroes series.

Easy Street co-founder Todd Hancock said, “We’re trying to do all of those Vegas entertainers – Elvis, Dino, Frank, the Rat Pack with those big band arrangements. It’s really more of a celebration of that era, and we’ll put our own spin on it. We’ll definitely have an old-school vibe going on.”

Hancock and co-founder Maureen Collins will serve as hosts for the evening, and they will joined by Easy Street regular and local stage veteran James McClellan and DeYor Singing Star champion Natalie Sprouse. They will be backed by the seven-piece Easy Street Little Big Band under the direction of Jeff Sanders.

Also making an appearance will be Mary Jo Maluso and Rick Blackson, who perform together as a cabaret duo.

“They really haven’t performed with us since back in the ‘Pump Boys’ days,” Hancock said. “We threw it out that we’d love for them to sing something, and they’re doing a Burt Bacharach medley.”

Hancock said when Patricia Syak approached Easy Street about being part of the Hometown Heroes series, he suggested scheduling the concert around Valentine’s Day.

“There just aren’t many places around here to go eat and see a show on Valentine’s Day,” he said. “It’s a good venue to do something like that.”

Dinner specials will be available at Overture Restaurant inside DeYor for an additional fee.

Other concerts in the Hometown Heroes Series will feature the McClellan family (brothers Eric and James McClellan and their sister Janeen Williams) at 8 p.m. March 22 and the Joe Augustine Trio at 8 p.m. April 6.

Easy Street also is kicking off this weekend what it hopes will be a monthly series. The local theater company is opening up its rehearsal space at 865 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown – the original home of the Oakland Center for the Arts – for a series called “Studio Sessions.”

“We want to have a real ‘Unplugged,’ ‘VH1 Storytellers’ vibe to it,” Hancock said. “It will be an intimate concert, definitely under 100 people, probably closer to 75.”

The first event is dubbed “Girls Night Out” and will feature Collins and Sprouse joined by Katy Collins, Teresa Weakley and Olivia Powell.

Hancock said that Katy Collins, who is Maureen’s niece, is moving to Nashville later this month to pursue her music career. The studio sessions idea is one they’d been talking about for a while, and they decided to start it so Katy could take part before leaving the area. Both Powell and WKBN news anchor Weakley were featured in Easy Street’s recent production of “Annie.”

Easy Street staged its first shows, “429 Miles Off Broadway” and “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” at the location when it was the Oakland. But since then, they’ve only used the space for rehearsals and the occasional performance by the Easy Street Little Rascals for their parents.

“It’s really an exciting new venue for us, even though it’s an old venue,” Hancock said. “We want it to be another outlet for music, comedy, dance routines, poetry. We’re trying to turn it back into a performance space as well as a rehearsal space.”

Saturday’s opening event is sold out.