The Scintas opened at the Las Vegas Hilton in 2000 with billboards asking, "What is a Scinta?" The only answer given was a phoenetic spelling of the name. (It's SHIN-tah) While strong word-of-mouth consistantly packed the intimate Hilton Nightclub, it was apparently difficult to describe their blend of music, comedy and impressions to anyone who wasn't familiar with the great lounge-style shows of the past that the Scintas are built on.
Now, with the Scintas' move to its much larger Copacabana Showroom, the Rio has at least attempted to provide an answer to the Hilton's question. A new emphasis on the fact that this is a family of performers is revealed in the show's new title, "Scintas: It's a Family Thing" and an opening video montage of siblings Joey, Frankie and Chrissi in childhood pictures and enjoying a big Sicilian family dinner. The theme is emphasized throughout as we get to learn about their mother, father and other brother who is a homicide detective in their hometown of Buffalo, NY. "I was telling them about our brother." Chrissi informs Joe as he walks onstage. "Oh, the cop? He got us all this great equipment."
The new ensemble atmosphere is even more apparent as the video segues into the rousing opening number "We Are Family" with sister Chrissi appearing right off the bat. In the Hilton version she was held back until nearly 20 minutes into the show, making what could be called occasional "guest appearances" throughout. Now she's frequently onstage for solos, duets and several big new group numbers.
Ironically, in spite of the family emphasis the Scintas have added two musicians to the group to give Frank a chance to get out from behind his keyboards more often. The new members fit in well though, and stay descreetly in the background until their single introduction late in the show. Drummer Peter O'Donnell, with 14 years as a member of the Scintas, floats somewhere in between - not exactly a sibling, but still part of the "family".
The powerful charisma of all three Scintas easily fills the larger space. Frank begins the evening by playing everything from the banjo to the spoons - which he plays "in several different languages!" He often leads the group with fine takes on Sinatra, Bennett, Ray Charles, Lou Rawls, George Burns and a riotous Tom Jones. But some of the most delightfully surprising (and I might add side-splitting) moments are turned in by brother Joe as a spaced-out Joe Cocker and an eerily dead-on Mick Jagger. Even drummer Peter O'Donnell steals the show as hard-drinking John Bonham from Led Zeppelin. Frank and Joe have a wonderful rapport that really shines with their interaction as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Sister Chrissi provides a nice balance to the male-dominated family with a tribute to Barbra Streisand and the requisite diva power-ballads. She and Frank team up for a Phantom of the Opera medly and the fabulous duet "Prayer" that brought the audience to its feet for one of several standing ovations. There is a great tribute to disco and a new finale featuring "The Circle of Life" from Lion King that nicely brings all the siblings together as a group and serves to give the whole show a larger "production" feel.
The staging could use a couple of adjustments to help enhance the connection to the audience that is so important for the Scintas. First, get rid of the ornate steel fence that surrounds Frank's keyboards. It looks pretty, but put a guy behind a steel barrier, set that back a few feet from the front of the stage, then set the stage back a few feet from the front row, and watch the guy try to interact with the audience. It's exhausting! There's also an odd little sattelite stage in the center of the house that's quite unnecessary for the few uses it gets. It really only makes sense during the finale, when the video screens that cover the walls of the theater create an effective and dramatic backdrop. I understand it's supposed to bring the performers into the audience, but I'd rather see them take out the stairs at the front of the stage and extend the apron - or even add a small runway, which would give them an opportunity to get closer to the audience without becoming disconnected from the rest of the group.
Of course this is a new show, and I have no doubt the little details will be worked out over time. The Scintas are still the epitome of great entertainment, and along with Danny Gans, Clint Holmes, Jimmy Hopper and others they are taking Las Vegas into a new era of world-class entertainment that hasn't been seen in one place since the Rat Pack era. You can feel their energy and love of performing - which is, after all, what you pay money to see - someone who is good at what they do and love doing it. The Scintas are all that and more, and with the amazing bargain price of $35 there's no excuse for not seeing this show!
How about a little excitement huh? I personally recommend Vegas