The Scintas, the nightclub act that’s been a cultural phenomenon in Akron for decades with both its old Las Vegas flair and manic style of comedy, wants to do things even bigger now.
The group, which hails from Buffalo, N.Y., and has been entertaining and charming the socks off sold-out crowds at Akron’s Tangier for 30 years, will take its classic music and comedy revue up a notch by performing its Vegas routine with the Akron Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at the Akron Civic Theatre.
Performing with an orchestra will be a first for the Scintas, who have been based in Vegas since 2000 and just signed a long-term, open-ended contract with the D Casino Las Vegas in April. Brothers Frank and Joe Scinta, who founded the group back in Buffalo, have long aspired to tour the nation performing with symphony orchestras.
It was a natural choice for the Scintas to launch its first orchestral venture in Akron, its home away from home, said Frank Scinta, vocalist, guitarist, pianist and master impressionist for the group.
“Our [Akron] fan base is so broad and our fans are so loyal that we knew that it was the right place to bring it,” he said of the Scintas’ new orchestral show.
Scinta said the symphony pops format will fit the Scintas’ many musical genres — from classical to pop to R&B to vintage Rat Pack — and is sure to be a win-win proposition for both the Scintas fans and orchestra enthusiasts.
“It would be a boost for any orchestra and a boost for the Scintas, too,” Scinta said of opportunities for reaching new audience bases.
The show is being co-produced by the Tangier and the Civic Theatre, with artistic production by Orchestral Events of Las Vegas, run by Scintas conductor and arranger Mariano Longo.
Things are good in Vegas for the Scintas, who work five nights a week in the D showroom and are also rehearsing with a local orchestra so they’ll be ready for their debut with the Akron Symphony.
“I’m as busy as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest,” Scinta quipped in a recent phone interview from his Vegas home.
Longo has arranged Scintas tunes ranging from Michael Buble to Michael Jackson for a 40-piece orchestra, a massive undertaking that took about six months to complete. The 15-number orchestral show will include songs by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Whitney Houston.
“We picked timeless pieces of material,” Longo said. “The songs are big in scope.”
Added to the mix is a classical Sicilian mazurka, which Scinta plays on mandolin, called Speranza Perduta, or Lost Hope, which goes back to the Scinta family’s roots.
Scinta said music director Longo, a Warren native based in Vegas, is meticulous and wants the band to be comfortable with the new orchestral arrangements. The lineup will be similar to their Vegas shows but now the Scintas’ comedy shtick will include the Akron Symphony.
“The best part of our show is that they can expect anything and everything. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be something they wouldn’t expect with an orchestra,” Scinta said.
Tangier owner Edward George’s staff first approached the Civic about a Scintas symphonic concert, and theater manager Howard Parr was game.
“Every time something comes up and it’s an opportunity to work with somebody and join resources, we do it,” said Parr, who will be seeing his first Scintas show.
“Frankie Scinta is one of the most phenomenal talents in the industry,” George said of the charismatic entertainer, whose act he hired in 1983 after actress/comedienne/guitarist Charo canceled.
George said that back in the day, Tangier helped put the Scintas on the map.
The cabaret quickly became the Scintas’ home away from home. Sister/vocalist Chrissi Scinta toured with the group for many years before stepping down 18 months ago for vocal therapy. She was first replaced by Ashlee Amoia and now by Buffalo native Janien Valentine, who will make her Akron debut Saturday.
The Scintas, which also includes brother Joe Scinta on bass and vocals and “adopted Scinta” Peter O’Donnell on drums, connected with Akron audiences from the start with their old Las Vegas-style variety act that engages guests. But the Scintas have always had a gift for making friends everywhere they go, including Akron hotels, malls, restaurants and bars and with everyone from shoe shines to cab drivers.
“When the Scintas go to Bob Evans, everyone knows they’re there. Every place they go, they’re like a magnet,” George said.
For 30 years, the Scintas have been Tangier’s most popular act and a sure sellout. That distinction’s meaningful at a 400-seat venue that has presented big-name entertainers including Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Tina Turner, the Temptations, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown and Natalie Cole, among many others, throughout its venerable history.
“It’s just a great night out, and then they socialize with the people,” George said of the Scintas. “They talk to everybody. Everybody’s their friend. I don’t care if you’re the owner of the Cleveland Indians or if you’re the guy shining shoes at the Hilton, they know everybody. They treat ’em all the same,” George said.
Despite their busy Vegas schedule, the Scintas continue to do two annual gigs at Akron’s Tangier — sellouts that include four shows at Christmas and three in May.
For their new venture Saturday night, the Vegas-style party will spread to Tangier, where a “Vegas chophouse” menu will be served before the show and a meet-and-greet with the Scintas, live entertainment and late-night dining will happen after the show. For more information, call 330-376-7171 or see www.thetangier.com.
George said the symphony pops collaboration should be a good opportunity for the Scintas to gain new fans: “Believe it or not, there’s people who've never seen them.”
Scinta said the group is used to performing before multiple generations — eclectic audiences from age 35 to 75. Younger concertgoers may not know who Martin and Lewis were, but they learn through the show that they were funny, Scinta said.
“They’re getting a sight of what entertainment used to be,” he said of younger generations.
The Scintas have some off-color humor but as part of a family act, Frank Scinta always makes sure he includes a message about family relationships in his shows. To him, it seems like just yesterday that he lost his father, Joe, a Buffalo firefighter and first generation American citizen who died in 1995.
Here’s what Scinta tells young audience members: “Take your iPod and shove it up a drawer for 20 minutes and pay attention to what’s going on at the [dinner] table because one day, one of those seats is going to be empty.”
Scinta enjoys getting email and Facebook messages from people who say that the Scintas’ performance made them laugh and touched them.
“Those are the moments I live for — to touch people’s hearts,” he said.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.