A warm and commanding stage presence has earned Steve Lippia the reputation of “having the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.” His youthful, energetic talent and powerful show creates a perfect blend of “classic” with “today,” introducing a new generation to this timeless music and transporting long-time listeners back to the era of “Old Blue Eyes.” He will appear Here at WBT on Saturday, June 18th.
"I'm a singer, not a Sinatra wannabe or look-alike. I'm not trying to be him or copy him," he said in at telephone call from Las Vegas. "That would be kind of embarrassing and cheesy. I don't do that stuff. I have arrangements that are very close to (Sinatra's) originals, and I certainly borrow from his approach to music as far as phasing goes," he said.
Lippia, 54, grew up buying and listening to pop and rock music, but he surprised his friends, when, on a dare, he chose to sing "It Was a Very Good Year" in a high school talent show. He'd heard Sinatra's Grammy-winning recording of composer Ervin Drake's best-known song at home, on his parents' recordings.
"This was really the music of their generation," he said, "but I never thought of it being outside of myself."
That has remained true for succeeding generations. If you don't believe it, check out the songbook in a local karaoke joint sometime, said Lippia. Flip through the songs by artist, "and you'll see Elvis, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, the Beatles, U2 and whoever else," he said, but when you get to Frank Sinatra, "you'll see that even today, there's perhaps more music dedicated in that book to him than to any other artist."
With his choices of material and arrangers, his signature style and "his ability to dramatize the lyric as if he was living in the moment," Sinatra came to own the songs he sang, said Lippia. "He was a conduit to people's souls with these great songs."
CIRQUE LE MASQUE
Fire & Ice: An energetic explosion of sight, sound, imagination and beauty. An amazing display of theatrical artistry with mid-air acts of strength and impeccable timing-perfect for audiences of all ages.
Monday & Tuesday, June 6th & 7th Matinee & Evening!
Cirque Le Masque co-owner Dennis Schussel (with his brother Bernie) answered a few questions to reporter Evelyn Shih, about his own obsession with the drama of the circus.
Q. How did you get interested in the circus, and in cirque theater?
When I was 14 years old, I used to wipe seats at the circus as an usher, did it for about five years. It was at the Island Garden Arena in West Hempstead (N.Y.). ...
I needed money — I needed those quarter tips! You want to be independent as a kid. It's just weird how things happen. How you begin with something like that, and then you end up in this business. It's just meant to be.
Q. What's your favorite act out of the 14 in "Fire and Ice," the current show?
The highlight is every act they watch. My show tends to play off different emotions.
But if I had to point out one, it would be the three-person hand-to-hand balancing, which takes it to another level. Their bodies are painted in silver, and they're balancing each other up in the air. At times it looks like they're suspended in midair.
Q. Who are the people in the show?
I contract acts for the year. The next year I'll bring in a whole new act. It keeps the show fresh. ... People are born into it. These are people who start when they're 3 years old. Their families were circus members, usually from Russia or Hungary or Poland.
Q. How do you find the acts?
I get e-mails all the time from performers, saying, "I heard you were great to work for. I'd love to submit my qualifications and my act to you." Every week I'm receiving 15 to 20 new submissions.
Q. Do you think the kind of circus theater you do is more popular in Europe than in America?
The acts themselves are not rooted here. The acts are rooted in Europe. But the roots of the show are deeply rooted here in America now, and it's becoming more and more popular. I think it hasn't even gotten near its peak.
Q. What do you like about your job?
We love what we do from Day One to today. Can't wait to go to work. ... A show like this, I say, brings more joy to the audience than a Broadway show, because it strikes a variety of emotions that you don't get in one kind of a show. I love that aspect of it. When I stand backstage, we get standing ovations 99 percent of the time with screams and yells. I still get goose bumps.