Frankie, baby Since his crooning big band emergence in the 1940s, Frank Sinatra has been among America's most popular entertainment figures, straddling not only the music world but movies, the stage and TV, too. Highlights of all these roles, including a sampling of Sinatra songs, are featured in "Frank Sinatra: The Voice of Our Time," at 9 tonight on Maryland Public Television (channels 22 and 67). Mel Torme hosts the special, which, although MPT currently has suspended the traditional weeks-long pledge periods, will be accompanied by "a few short marketing messages" on MPT's behalf.
"Personal Visions/Diverse Images," an exhibition of sculptural glass created since the mid-1980s, runs through May 31 at the National Museum of Ceramic Art, 250 W. Pratt St. Assembled from regional private collections and galleries, the 44 pieces represent various styles and techniques of American, European and Japanese artists. Some celebrate the complexities of the human, others probe the simplicity of basic shapes. Frantisik Vizner's rounded glass form seems to glow as if it were alive. Weekend hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 837-2529. Admission $1.
A grand Hotel
The Mechanic Theatre's "Grand Hotel, The Musical" is a magnificent production. A marvelous cast sing and dance superb musical numbers. Based on the 1929 novel and 1932 movie, this extravagant version tells the life and death stories of those who dwell in the grim shadows of pre-World War II Berlin. Liliane Montevecchi exquisitely reprises her Broadway role as the poignant, aging ballerina. Brent Barrett as the --ing baron and Mark Baker as a dying bookkeeper turn in unforgettable performances. Hopkins Plaza. 8 p.m. tonight; matinees today at 2 p.m., tomorrow at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $34 to $45. Call 625-1400.
Oliver Stone's ''The Doors'' is the story of the life and death of Jim Morrison, leader of the rock group by the same name. For half its running time, the film looks like so much video. Half way along, however, we begin to learn more about the principal character, and the movie improves. Stone spends too much time on concert scenes, but he was apparently trying to give us a picture of what the early rock days were like -- ''The Doors'' succeeds in that. Val Kilmer stars, and Meg Ryan is the girl who loved him and later followed him in death. Language, sex, nudity. Rating: R. **
INXS tops its LP versions
J. D. Considine Everybody knows INXS makes good records. Why, the evidence is is plain as the sound coming out of your radio, as tuneful, infectious singles like "New Sensation," of the current "Disappear," make clear everyday.
What you may not know is that INXS is also a great band. Not simply in the producing sense of the term, but in the most basic, get-down-and-play meaning. As their set at the Capital Centre last night showed, these six Australians definitely know how to put life into live music.
Unlike so many of today's pop stars, whose carefully choreographed performances seem less like concerts than elaborate re-enactments of their latest videos, INXS is only too happy to monkey around with its material. Thus, the band stripped "Guns in the Sky" to its essentials, pumping its central riff into a rhythmic juggernaut, while "What You Need" took on a propulsive power that suggested what might have happened had the Rolling Stones wound up with one of James Brown's rhythm sections.
In fact, there was barely a moment when INXS wasn't making its beat bigger and better than the LP version. Given the prodigious might of the band's rhythmic axis, it's not hard to understand why; between drummer Jon Farriss and bassist Garry Gary Beers, the INXS groove machine made it virtually impossible to listen without dancing.
But it wasn't just the beat that made the music better -- it was the sound of the band as a whole. Sure, "Devil Inside" was sweaty and insistent, and "Listen Like Thieves" throbbed with intensity, but that was as much the work of keyboardist Andrew Farriss or his guitar-playing brother Tim as it was the rhythmic section.
Besides, as much as the band's instrumentalists provided the mu
sic's muscle, it was singer Michael Hutchence who gave it heart. Though it was the others who set down the insinuating groove behind "Need You Tonight," it was Hutchence who made the song reek of passion and desire, of sex and possibility. In short, he made it sizzle.
And that, frankly, is something no record can do.
"THE CATERED AFFAIR"
If you're in the mood for an oldie this weekend, try the 1956 ''The Catered Affair.'' Debbie Reynolds and Rod Taylor are the young lovers, and Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine are the parents of the bride. The bride doesn't want a large wedding. Her mother, however, wants a huge bash, even though it will mean hardship for her and her husband. The film was based on a television drama written by Paddy Chayefsky. No rating. **