Frankie Scinta and his family act originally broke out in Buffalo, rose to fame internationally, and these days continue to headline in Las Vegas. But Frankie has been coming back every year for the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival. Frankie told me that he thinks he may have raised the most funds ever for the festival this year, and wanted to make this the best festival ever. Scinta, the musical director of the festival, thinks that this year we had a better main stage (now called the Frankie Scinta stage at its new location Hertel and Tennyson), a better band lineup, two jumbotrons and better light and sound equipment.
I would have to agree. Last year’s main stage surprised me in that it was covered by a huge tent that was low off the ground. I suffocated from the heat that couldn’t escape, felt the tent did funny things to the sound, and you couldn’t really view the stage unless you were just a few feet from the stage. Flash forward to this year where you could breathe, the sound rocked (thank you sound engineer David Perry), the headliners were strong and really headlined all four nights, plus you could see the stage easily. But even if you couldn’t, the two jumbotrons allowed you to see the show from afar. And, as always, the Festival was wired so that you could hear the main stage up and down Hertel Avenue, great move that.
Scinta shook Sinatra’s hand. When he was 15 years old.
Frankie Scinta is what in the old days they called a mulitple threat. He could sing, he could dance, he could act. But Frankie does so much more than that, tonight he also played many musical instruments: guitar, drums, mandolin, banjo and piano. He is a storyteller and jokester, does impressions and even conducted at times!
Looks like George Burns on stage with the lovely Ashlee Amoia
It’s impersonation time! Scinta starts out doing a great George Burns, with the help of Ashlee Amoia (more on her later). Then he does Kermit the Frog, Ray Charles (great moves there!), Jimmy Durante (the Great Schnozzola), and Frank Sinatra. Scinta actually shook Sinatra’s hand when he was just 15. Sounds like a caper from Oceans 11 to me. Anyway, onward to Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Lou Rawls, Tom Jones (some ladies threw their underwear on stage) and even Garth Brooks on guitar. He shared the stage with Ashlee Amoia, who was dressed in red (see below) and did a tribute to Michael Jackson, and who was later dressed in a hot country outfit during a country song. She did quite a few numbers – note how Scinta showcases up and coming talent in his show.
Ray Charles is back in Buffalo!
On to the piano! First ‘Chopsticks’, then Vince Guaraldi’s ‘Charlie Brown theme’ (I can see Snoopy dancing like crazy!). Then singing along with Elton John’s ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’ and Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’. The sun has set now, it is a little after 10PM B.S.T. (Buffalo Standard Time), and Scinta starts out with one of Billy Joel’s standards:
“It’s 10:03 on a Saturday,
Right here in Buffalo New York…:
and does this bit with the Irish Pete O’Donnell, the “adopted Scinta”, bantering about why the crowd isn’t singing along. Then he starts out again:
“It’s 10:04 on a Saturday…”
and by the time 10:05 turns the crowd finally kicks in, and the piano man “sings us a song tonight”. He went on with the theme from Godfather, Love Story, and finally Don McLean’s American Pie.
Buffalonian Joey Pero, now rising in Las Vegas, takes a solo
At one point Frankie recognized Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in the front row, and talked about how Buffalo now had a black Mayor and a black President, but what would happen if there was a Sicilian president? And so we got to see Brando’s Don Corleone as the president. On a more serious note, Frankie longed for the old neighborhood, where he said it did not matter what religion or race you were, just that you were from the neighborhood, and people got along.
Ashlee Amoia does a beautiful duet with Frankie Scinta
Scinta also thanked Christians, Muslims, folks from all other religions, and even atheists for attending, in his own Frankie way. Scinta honored our military attendees by asking them to stand and be recognized, and he thanked them for their service in song. Scinta seemed to be so ‘up’ throughout, a breath of fresh air and positive attitude not always seen in Buffalo shows.
Frankie looks to the heavens and pays tribute to his father
At the end, Frankie mentioned that he hoped to be back at the festival next year. But you won’t have to wait until next year to see him again. I heard that the Scintas are going to bring their nationwide touring Christmas show to our area for the first time. They will be at the Riviera Theater in North Tonawanda this December 21st.
If you attended, please share with us your favorite moments from the show.