From acting in classic films such as ‘From Here to Eternity’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’ to performing the most acclaimed songs of our time, Frank Sinatra’s career lasted over 50 years till his untimely death in 1998. Actor and singer Brian De Lorenzo pays tribute to Sinatra with “Come Fly With Me: Brian De Lorenzo Celebrates Sinatra at 100,” offering insight into Sinatra’s life and performing his most popular American Standards. Click here for more information!
Brian De Lorenzo discusses his love for music, his acting background, and what most people might not know about Sinatra.
Examiner: I understand you were Talent America’s Performer of the Year in 2001. How did you get your start before that? What sparked your interest in music?
Brian De Lorenzo: We always had music in the house when I was growing up. My father was a semi-professional singer and the whole family loved to sing. I think when I was about 9 years old, my parents bought an old, upright piano and asked me if I wanted to take piano lessons and I said “yes.” They must have noticed that I loved music and singing.
Soon after that, a community chorus specializing in classical choral music called ‘The Fine Arts Chorale,’ which is based in my hometown of Weymouth, MA, was looking for boy sopranos to sing the parts of the ‘Pickled Boys’ in Benjamin Britten’s ‘Saint Nicolas Cantata.’ Although I was not paid for that concert, I consider that to be my professional debut as a performer. Later in high school, I sang with the Chorale as a regular chorus member performing the ‘Verdi Requiem’ and other great choral works.
A nun, who was a teacher at my school, heard me at the St. Nicolas concert and suggested to my parents that I enroll in Christ Choir School, which later became New England Children’s Choir. I attended for four years on Saturdays during the regular school year.
Instead of staying home watching cartoons like other kids my age, I was learning music theory, how to play the recorder, and performing in musicals and operas such as Humperdinck’s ‘Hansel & Gretel’ in the role of Hansel. I also learned about composers and singing choral music that included religious works as well as selections from ‘Oliver!’ and ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.’
Examiner: As an actor, you have performed all over New England in productions such as ‘Forever Plaid,’ ‘Assassins,’ ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ and ‘A Christmas Carol.’ I understand though, you won an IRNE as a member of the cast for Best Ensemble in ‘The Wild Party.’ Please tell me about that experience.
BD: It was quite exciting for us to win the award and we all had a great time working together on the show. It was a true collaboration by all the cast members with each other as well as with the creative team and the IRNE Committee recognized that collaboration. The show was a real workout for me because there was a lot of dance and movement and it had been quite a while since I had done a stage production that was that strenuous.
I was pretty worn out by the end of the days we worked on choreography! The Andrew Lippa score is very exciting, and I enjoy listening to the cast recording. Someday, I’d like to add some of the songs to my cabaret repertoire.
It was interesting to play the role of Phil D’Armano because it was the first time I portrayed a gay character. I had been “out” for many years before that, but this was an opportunity to explore that in a character on stage which was kind of intimidating and freeing at the same time.
Examiner: The Rat Pack music has stood the test of time and musicians often cover songs from the American Songbook. What is it about the Rat Pack and particularly Sinatra’s music that really draw your interest? Why do you think Sinatra’s songs and the songs of this era are still popular today?
BD: Songs from the Great American Songbook, which is primarily what Sinatra and the other Rat Pack members performed, consist of well crafted melodies, harmonies, and most importantly, lyrics that nearly everyone can identify with especially when you’ve gotten a few life experiences under your belt. Everyone over the age of 16, and sometimes younger, has experienced beauty, love, humor, and heartache. These songs validate our own feelings and experiences. We do five songs by lyricist Johnny Mercer who was a master craftsman when it came to putting love and heartache onto the page.
Examiner: What I love about your upcoming performance, ‘Come Fly With Me: Brian De Lorenzo Celebrates Sinatra at 100’ is your performance at Club Café in Boston on Thursday, October 29 is just one stop on a tour celebrating Sinatra’s big year. You will also take the stage twice in New York City in November and then a couple of times in Puerto Vallarta in December. This is not just an exploration of his famous songs, but offers insight into Sinatra’s accomplished life. Please tell me how this idea came about and something that you know about Sinatra that others might not.
BD: About a year and a half ago, I was asked to come up with a list of songs for the ‘Upstage Lung Cancer’ (USLC) tribute benefit to Dean Martin and the Rat Pack scheduled for last November. As I was perusing song titles, I remembered a couple of years prior, I had had the idea of doing a show saluting some of the best known Italian-American singers since I’m also Italian-American.
The research for the USLC benefit gave me that extra push I needed into performing a Tony Bennett and Sinatra salute called ‘Sinatra, Tony, and Me’ at Scullers in Boston and the Metropolitan Room twice in New York last year. At the beginning of 2015, I was researching famous entertainers and songwriters who might be having important anniversaries this year. I saw that the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth would be on December 12 and thought, “I can take the show I did last year, replace the Tony Bennett songs with Sinatra songs and we’ll have a Sinatra tribute show.”
The song ‘Come Fly with Me’ would be in the show. Since it’s a song most people associate with Sinatra, it struck me as a good title. I performed it as part of ‘CabaretFest!’ Provincetown in June and to a standing-room-only crowd in Jamaica Plain in July.
Most people might not know that he had a great respect for other singers, specifically Mabel Mercer and Tony Bennett. “Everything I know, I learned from Mabel Mercer” and “For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business.”
Click here for a closer look at the Sinatra songs featured in ‘Come Fly With Me: Brian De Lorenzo Celebrates Sinatra at 100’ on Thursday, October 29 at Club Cafe, 209 Columbus Ave in Boston, Massachusetts at 7:30 p.m. Click here for tickets!