Tinkering Doesn’t Alter Scinta Show’s Heart

Photo by David Tingey

Photo by David Tingey

Search Frankie Scinta thoroughly and you might discover a secret battery compartment. Battery size? Ds, natch.

When an entertainer runs on this much juice (at, yes, The D), an artificial energy source is plausible, yet the Vegas vet has an organic ebullience.

He had it as the heart of The Scintas, as the family act was once titled. He’s no less the Italian Tasmanian devil of local entertainers now that he’s just Frankie Scinta, as the act’s now billed, even with the same personnel—bro Joey, vocalist Janien Valentine (who succeeded sister Chrissi) and “adopted” brother Peter O’Donnell, the backup band’s drummer.

Re-branded as a headliner show after market research confirmed what was ever-evident—Frankie’s the guts of the act—the production has been modestly freshened to blend Old Vegas style with a New Vegas ethos.

Remixing a repertoire that now spikes Ray Charles and Dean Martin (which Frankie clearly adores) with spritzes of Coldplay and Avicii (which he sings with conviction, but inevitably feels like capitulation to the cause of youth-in-izing the demographics) isn’t entirely convincing. Coldplay doesn’t come naturally to a Scinta—like Dad trying to be hip for the kids, only making him seem more Dad-like. Still, the urge to attempt musical relevance is understandable.

However he’s billed, Scinta is a showman down to his toenails. When he promises a Tuesday night audience a Saturday night show, it’s no hyperbole. Not when he relentlessly kibitzes with the crowd; bangs out a drum solo with spoons on his knee; plays a mandolin till it’s nearly on fire; trades playful insults with his brother; duets with Valentine; sprinkles songs with shtick and exaggerated facial expressions; impersonates Tom Jones, including caressing his nipples; and attacks a piano like Jerry Lee Lewis on a caffeine surge.

Token naughtiness gets tossed in, as when an ad-lib lyric in Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” alludes to blowjobs, and tweets are referred to as “twats.”

Somewhere in all this, Frankie takes a breath or two. Prizes should be awarded to anyone who can identify those fleeting moments.

Contributing his deadpan/wiseguy persona—interrupting with sarcastic one-liners in the band behind Frankie, and moving center stage with Mick Jagger, Neil Diamond and Joe Cocker impressions—Joey remains a vital element. Together, the brothers create a live-wire vaudevillian vibe.

Multiple music highlights include Valentine pole-vaulting up the octaves on “I’m Your Baby, Tonight”; Motown and Michael Jackson medleys by her and Frankie; and their lush duet on “The Prayer,” echoing Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.

Sentimentality and patriotism still power show segments, including journeys through the family’s upbringing in Buffalo, New York (with Frankie’s yearning for old-time values) and pride in America he suggests is declining. Though it plays like generational kvetching by the 50-plus crowd, it’s also endearing in its utter sincerity.

Plus a frenetic finale with Frankie on the 88s, pinballing through pop classics, sends the crowd out on an adrenaline high.

However you change the wrapping, a Scinta show is still a damn good gift.

Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.

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