Vintage vocals: Ron Hawking returns with 'Frank' for NYE concert at Theatre at the Center

2013-12-11T23:33:00Z 2013-12-12T13:12:07Z Vintage vocals: Ron Hawking returns with 'Frank' for NYE concert at Theatre at the CenterPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com nwitimes.com
December 11, 2013 11:33 pm  • 

Entertainer Ron Hawking is a famous and favorite stage attraction for his vocal stylings, all-star performance repertoire salute to great names.

Last year, he jammed-packed two exclusive New Year's Eve performances at Theatre at the Center in Munster with audiences sampling his "Copa Chicago" show to spend the night enjoying the best of Ray Charles and Lou Rawls, as well as nods to Frankie Valli, Bobby Darin, Kenny Rogers, Burt Bacharach, Billy Joel and Roy Orbison.

This year, he's returning and bringing Frank, Sammy and Dean with him to the same stage at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts on Ridge Road in Munster

"A year ago, I was in the middle of producing a new show and Theatre at the Center audiences got the first taste of what I'd come up with," said Hawking, who now has a host of specialty shows he performs at venues around the country, including the popular "His Way for the Holidays."

But as a special treat for Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana audiences, he's welcoming the new year with a return to his signature show that skyrocketed him to the top as an in-demand headliner.

"I think they are billing my show this year in Munster as 'a revival,' " Hawking said.

"But I don't know if the word 'revival' is even necessary. Frank and his voice and songs have never left. They are always around as audience favorites."

Hawking, who refers to himself as "a musical messenger," is familiar to fans because of the six year run of his successful and critically acclaimed show in Chicago called "His Way -- A Tribute to the Man and His Music," paying homage to the late and great Frank Sinatra.

In addition to the two performances on New Year's Eve, he is also presenting a string of three more concert the next weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In 2007, Hawking unveiled a new hit stage show that began to showcase the range and variety of his musical impersonations, staged at his familiar Windy City performance home Mercury Theatre.

Called "The Men and Their Music," it included iconic numbers from many great male vocalists including Paul Anka, Barry Manilow and others.

During his New Year's Eve performances at Theatre at the Center, which also includes the option of a buffet dinner seating at the theater prior to the show start, Hawking also promises to host a vocal return for his signature Las Vegas headliners that have become his claim-to-fame.

"If I'm bringing Frank, then I have to have Sammy and Dean with me, because I can't disappoint my favorite trio," said Hawking, who has back-up singers to help create an even more dazzling stage effect.

When it comes to the business of using his voice to spread messages, Hawking is an old pro.

Long before he made his name on the Chicago stage, he earned his reputation as one of the most sought-after jingle singers and commercial voice-over artists in the country.

His is the voice behind hundreds of TV and radio commercials, including providing the distinct voice of Starkist's Charlie the Tuna, impersonating the voice of Jimmy Durante in commercials for Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats -- and recreating Louis Prima's vocal talents for Progresso Soups, Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" for Subaru and Nat King Cole's signature "Unforgettable" for Hershey's.

"There are so many people who only know me from my Frank Sinatra tribute, so I decided the time was right to share Sinatra again not only with his fans, but also with a new generation of fans," said Hawking, who spends as much as two years before unveiling his new shows.

He has performed at New York's Carnegie Hall with the Philly Pops Orchestra and has opened for such notables as Carol Channing, Sheena Easton, Robert Klein and The Temptations.

Of all the greats Hawking impersonates so precisely, Davis is one of the few he actually met.

"It was just a handshake after one of his concerts at the old Mill Run, but I did get to meet Sammy Davis," he said.

"And even though I never actually met Sinatra, I did get to see him in concert a few times."

The walls in Hawking's office also spotlight some star-studded photographs of the singer with other legends such as Shirley MacLaine and Tony Bennett.

And even though he occasionally has played famous venues in Las Vegas and Reno as part of what he calls "corporate gigs," Chicagoland remains his "main stage."

"The shows I do are intended to keep music and memories alive," Hawking said.

"No one can fill the big shoes of the big entertainers of our time."

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