STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Any cabaret aficionado can tell you — it’s all about the room.
If the act has the optimal venue, the audience can be led on a dazzling emotional journey that leaves everyone wanting more.
Maybe that’s why so many first-rate acts are returning to the Lorenzo’s Cabaret stage — some for the fourth and fifth time — for the first half of the venue’s 2015 season:
JAN. 23: NEW YORK RAT PACK — Frank, Dino and Sammy never could resist the ladies. Expect no less when Sinatra, Martin and Davis Jr. swing back into town again for a gig at Lorenzo’s Cabaret.
OK, not in the flesh, but the next best thing: The New York Rat Pack, a top-notch tribute to the iconic entertainers that’s no stranger to S.I. audiences.
“They don’t sing better than any other Rat Pack (tribute act). What they do is interact with an audience better than anyone else,” show producer Barry Brown told AWE before a previous date with Lorenzo. “They are entertainers — fabulous entertainers. They lay in your lap. They do a lot of humor. They do a lot of schtick the way the Rat Pack did.”
Among the featured classic tunes: “Lady is a Tramp,” “New York, New York,” “Summer Wind,” “You’re Nobody Until Somebody Loves You” and “That’s Life.”
In pure Dino fashion, Joe Perce strolls the stage with a martini glass glued to his hand: “I really worked on his voice,” said the Manhattan school teacher who’s channeled the King of Cool for more than two decades. “Then I just tried to develop his swagger and his styling.”
Jesse Posa, a graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, who studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute, brings the Chairman of the Board back (he also played Frank in off-Broadway’s “Sinatra & Friends).
Finally, Larry Hinds revives Sammy Davis Jr. and his “Mr. Bojangles” dance moves. He’s also appeared on “Showtime at the Apollo” and “Chappelle’s Show.”
Working solid together since 2004, this Rat Pack does about 50 dates a year, ranging from shows at B.B. King’s in Times Square to corporate dates in Pennsylvania to surprise 80th birthday parties in the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai.
Perce said the act thrives on improvisation, “because that’s what these guys did at the Sands in Las Vegas. The reason they were such a draw was you would never see the same show. Anything could happen.”
FEB. 27 & 28: MICHAEL AMANTE — This suave song stylist — often dubbed “The People’s Tenor” and “Prince of the High Cs — with leading man looks recently told the Advance the last few years were tough for himself and his kids (ages 9, 10 and 11) after the untimely death of his wife.
However, he’s marking a fresh start: He’s proud to share share news that he’s remarried and beginning a new life — on and off stage. Amante says he’s especially excited to be playing for S.I. audiences.
This consummate entertainer — whose approach to opera is light and easy and who’s been on the show biz circuit since age 6 — was once dubbed “the next Mario Lanza” by legendary singer Tony Bennett.
MARCH 27: THE DUPREES — Don’t miss the chance to witness the unmistakable, floating vocal harmonies (“You Belong To Me” and “Have You Heard,” among other classics) from this classic doo-wop group.
“The name of the group has survived, the music has survived and the fans have exponentially gone up in population,” said lead singer Tony Testa. “We are just astounded how it carries on. A main part of that, I think, is that I make a concerted effort to honor the past members of the group who came before us. I relate it to a family, with wonderful memories and some unfortunate tragedies. We’re honored to keep the tradition alive.”
A Jersey City group of Italian-American street-corner crooners, The Duprees charted in the early 1960s with updated versions of successful recordings by Dean Martin and various motion picture soundtrack cuts.
The quartet’s home turf was an important part of their identity, but current group leader Tony Testa first hooked up with the band in South Beach.
“The very first place I worked with The Duprees, back around 1965, was on Sand Lane at a night club called Crocitto,” said Testa, 66, who started out as a guitar player with the group. “It was a popular night club with a full-course menu of a show, an exotic dancer and a couple of acts. At the time I had my own group and we were, I guess, the house band. We backed up a lot of the featured acts performing, including The Duprees. We became friendly, one thing led to another and the rest is history.”
APRIL 17: JOE PISCOPO’S ‘SONG, SHTICK & SINATRA’ — This actor/comedian/vocalist hit the stand-up comedy circuit in the late 1970s — and was a household name as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” in the ’80s.
An impressionist and star of stage and screen, who has imitated a slew of actors, politicos and crooners, is perhaps best known for his impressions of Frank Sinatra.
He has recorded several singles, been seen in popular commercials, made voice- overs, and has appeared in more than 10 films.
The versatile performer, who has played to fans in several back-by-popular-demand shows at Lorenzo’s, describes his latest act as a retro-style Las Vegas-type show filled with music and comedy.
“The show is for folks of all ages, the 20 something’s in the crowd, and for older folks and children as well,” he says. “If you can make it there (in New York) you can make it any where.”
Born in Newark, Piscopo says he loves the East Coast: “It’s just the best.”
MAY 17: VITO PICONE & THE ELEGANTS — Picone and company hail from the community of South Beach — as does his opening act, The Expressions — and often performed under the Boardwalk near their homes as young men.
The Elegants, still based on Staten Island, were formed in 1956 by lead singer Picone. The group also features Jimmy Moschello, baritone; Nino Amato, first tenor; and Bruce “Sonny” Copp, second tenor and rhythm guitarist.
The band’s Lorenzo’s date coincides with the 57th anniversary of the Elegants’ song, “Little Star,” a tune that soared to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It spent 19 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, earning gold disc status. Their song has been immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
The record sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide in 1958 on ABC Paramount’s subsidiary label, “APT.” The group was named the No. 1 R&B and the No. 1 pop artists of the year and adorned cover of Cashbox Magazine receiving their gold record.
Aside from doubling their original record sales since 1958, the group received the Million-Aires award for “Little Star” after it aired 1 million times on the radio. It also was featured in numerous movies, and in HBO’s blockbuster series, “The Sopranos.”
Picone & The Elegants have appeared in Radio City Music Hall (eight times), Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Plus, Vito had a cameo in the Oscar-winning “GoodFellas.”
JUNE 5: JAY AND THE AMERICANS — From 1962 to 1971, this crew charted a dozen Top 10 hits.
“In my head, we competed with The Four Seasons — and I have to say, they won,” laughed founding member Sandy Yaguda, from his home in Long Island. “But to be Hertz to their Avis? That’s great! We did really well. We also had to compete with the Beatles; the British Invasion. Only three bands survived that: The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons and Jay and the Americans.”
Show up at Lorenzo’s for the timeless Jay jams “This Magic Moment,” “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Cara Mia” & “She Cried.”
JULY 24: LOUIS PRIMA JR. — Every time Louis comes to Lorenzo’s Cabaret at The Hilton Garden Inn, the Las Vegas trumpet player and son of swing and boogie-woogie legend Louis Prima packs the joint and blows audiences away with his nine-piece band.
“For that one hour or hour-and-a-half, forget the world exists — come and enjoy the music,” added Prima Jr.
This energetic showman will once again do his papa’s legacy proud on July 24 with rowdy renditions of classics like “Just a Gigolo,” “Jump, Jive ‘n’ Wail,” “Buono Sera” and “That Old Black Magic.”
“I’m trying to do it the way my father did it, so it’s more than the music, it’sputting on an energetic show,” Prima Jr. told AWE before a previous visit to Staten Island. “… It’s the happiest music on earth, and my band and I are not just up there posing. We try to get the crowd just as excited about the entertainment as we are.”