First Canadian Idol returns to region for Sinatra tribute

Ryan Malcolm is back in the region this week as he performs with his dad, John Malcolm, and brother, Reagan Smith in a Frank Sinatra tribute at the Grand Theatre in Kingston. (Submitted photo)

Show to benefit Lennox and Addington Seniors Outreach Services

Adam Bramburger

Beaver Staff

This week, Ryan Malcolm will fill the shoes of an iconic musical sensation and, judging by his own history, he’ll bring personal experience to his part few others could.

In 1939, Frank Sinatra was working as a waiter at the Rustic Cabin, a roadhouse in New Jersey, when he got his big break in the music industry. He sang on a live radio feed and captivated an audience.

Malcolm can relate to that story. In 2003, the NDSS grad was waiting tables at his family’s Amherstview restaurant, A Bit of Nostalgia, by day and singing selections made famous by a wide selection of performers whenever he could get the chance. Auditions came for the first season of Canadian Idol and he gave it his all.  He made it on the show and, week by week, he survived audiences votes to stay in the running. Finally, that September he was crowned Idol and he became a national sensation.

Reagan Smith, left, and John Malcolm will perform as Frank Sinatra in “It Was A Very Good Year:” Sinatra, The Man, His Fans, and His Music at Kingston’s Grand Theatre. (Submitted photo)

When “It Was a Very Good Year:” Sinatra, The Man, His Fans, His Music opens Thursday at the Grand Theatre in Kingston, Ryan Malcolm will perform as the young Sinatra. His brother, Reagan Smith, will play “Old Blue Eyes” as his career progresses, while their dad, John Malcolm will take on Sinatra’s later years as “Chairman of the Board.”

“A few years ago, my dad did this show on his own at the Grand Theatre,” Malcolm said. “I’d been doing this ‘50s and ‘60s stuff for years before I won Idol. It’s a nice idea to get my dad, my brother and me together,” he said. “Sinatra had always been dad’s thing. It’s completely new for us.”

In fact, Malcolm said in all his time singing classic standards with his family, he’d never actually done Sinatra on stage. Grand Theatre crowds might remember his Buddy Holly tributes or avid Idol watchers could recall Billy Joey and Creedence Clearwater Revival covers on television. He admits it took a bit of time to get his act down, but he’s feeling confident about it.

“I had to learn his mannerisms and how he sings. He has a unique voice,” Malcolm said. “It’s definitely different in learning how to be that artist. It’s a challenge for sure, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The tribute show spans the entire length of Sinatra’s career and it is told through the eyes of members of his fan club and true stories and letters they have written. Between the recollections, there is music.

While Smith and John Malcolm often perform shows as A Bit of Nostalgia, this will be a rare appearance for Ryan. He’s now married and selling real estate in Bayfield, Ont. on the shores of Lake Huron. While his career as a recording artist and his celebrity once kept him busy with engagements around the globe, he says he’s enjoying the slower pace at this point in his musical career.

“I’m pretty choosy and I don’t perform for the sake of performing,” he said. “I do a lot of studio work and recording, but for the most part performances are one-offs that I sort of hand pick — things I really want to do,” he said. “Gone are the days of driving across Europe and playing in dingy little bars in some town in Germany. I’ve grown out of that, I guess. I’ve had a lot of fun, but I appreciate where I’m at in my career, I can pick and choose what I do. It’s a lot less pressure and a lot less stress.”

Malcolm says even 15 years later, he still hears from fans who shared in his Canadian Idol journey.

“It happens even when I’m out showing houses or whatever. It’s a nice conversation starter and a nice icebreaker for a new client. Sometimes they know right away, other times they can’t quite pinpoint it, “he recalled. “I appreciate meeting new people and telling some of the stories.”

Perhaps nowhere is Malcolm better recognized than in Napanee. He lived in town for 10 years while his parents owned a restaurant here. Many of his friends from high school remain in the area and he’s ever grateful for the audience the area’s seniors gave him as he performed in shows with his dad and brother. The seniors provide a great audience for throwback performances and as such, the family has decided to give proceeds from the show to Lennox and Addington County Seniors Outreach Services as well as the Senior’s Association Kingston Region.

“I spent a lot of years in Napanee and got to know a lot of the senior community by doing these shows with my dad and my brother. They were a target audience of what we were performing,” he said. “We realized a lot of people in these smaller communities could use support and it’s something nice we get to do and sort of pay back the community that supported us for all those years… Specifically Napanee, for sure. That’s where we started.”

Malcolm said he hopes people who haven’t seen a performance in a while or those who are seeing his family on stage for a first time will enjoy what they see.

Joining the three Sinatras will be Andrew Trott and his all-star band, Cher Lepine, Jim East, Michael K. Myers, Richard Z. Palimaka, and Walt Freeman.

The performance runs Thursday through Saturday with nightly shows at 7:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets are available at or by phoning 613-530-2050. 

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