BWW Blog: Jessica Vanek - Santino Fontana Brings THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK to the Smith Center Cabaret Jazz Room
Jess here. Every once in awhile you hear about a show that you would do just about anything to see. Although the stages of Las Vegas offer a variety of amazing entertainment options on a nightly basis, it's a rare occasion to have the opportunity to see a multi-talented performer whose career spans across several different medias; from TV to film to Broadway. When I saw that The Smith Center for the Performing Arts was hosting a show featuring Santino Fontana I was ecstatic! Initially scheduled for a two night run, Fontana's Friday night show was cancelled due to a foot of snow closing down all of the NYC area airports. Thankfully, "the show must go on" adage rang true, and Fontana was welcomed to the sunny desert on Saturday night by an eagerly awaiting, over-packed house.
Fontana is an artist that has done it all. He played Prince Topher in Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway, voiced Hans from Disney's FROZEN and played Greg on the CW's TV series My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, just to name a few. His newest venture, a show centered around the music of The Great American Songbook, was a perfect fit for the Smith Center Cabaret Jazz room. This performance was absolutely amazing! Fontana wowed the audience with his stellar interpretations and wonderful voice while re-introducing the public to timeless songs, complete with new arrangements. Inclusive of multiple standards along with a few surprises, the evening's set list included two of my all time favorites; "Lush Life" and "When Sunny Gets Blue" as well as a variety of other songs ranging from a comedic take on "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, to a soulful rendition of Stevie Wonder's classic "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing." A mashup duet of "Let's Fall in Love" with wife Jessica Fontana (Smith Center's original production of IDAHO) featured some serious scat that the audience loved! These songs, along with many other popular classics, were backed by the incredible musicians Bryan Carter (drums), Steven Feifke (piano) and Charlie Rosen (bass).
This show really resonated with me for a number of reasons. The music of the Great American Songbook was what first introduced me to the performance circuit in Las Vegas. I believe that the music of the 20th Century has had an incredible impact on countless performers, and is the key component responsible for shaping the musical society of today. However, despite its enduring lyrics and music, the Great American Songbook doesn't always receive the recognition it did in the past. Introducing these standards to a younger audience must occur in order to keep this genre of music vibrant and thriving. Fortunately, thanks to artists like Fontana, America's rich musical past can be kept alive and well in the hearts of the young and old alike, and provide a source of inspiration for future generations to enjoy.
"Take me to the world that's real, show me how it's done. Teach me how to laugh, to feel, move me to the sun." -Stephen Sondheim