Friday, May 24, 2013 | 6 p.m.
John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone talk to Frank Scinta about the Scintas show at the D.
Frankie Scinta talks a lot about dying onstage.
Not dying in the manner of an unfunny stand-up comic or an off-key crooner. Not dying like an out-of-tune harpist, as it were.
But actual, for real, ceasing-to-live dying. Frankie to the S expects to be onstage, maybe singing as Tom Jones, until the tag is tied to his toe.
“This is my life,” he says. “I feel like I’ll croak onstage.”
It’s not really a morbid concept, either. Not for Frankie and his brother, Joe. They are the heart of the act long known as The Scintas, and with this crew, you don’t know if you should laugh, cry or instigate a group hug.
In their new show at D Las Vegas (the onetime Fitzgeralds, where the old Irish-themed vibe is gone like last night’s whisky bottle), The Scintas bring abundant life to their act. A lot of their own lives, too. The Scintas’ show has always been an autobiographical experience. Frankie and Joe enact a lot of brotherly shtick — one typically goofy moment is when Joe has to be restrained by Frankie from going into the crowd after a few fans who are not, shall we say, showing him the proper respect.
It’s not a significant part of the show, but the brotherly interplay is evident between Joe and Frankie. You might not know them personally, but you do feel a familial connection, as their throwback comedy-and-music showcase is unfurled at The D.
“When we were kids, there was no timeout chair,” Frankie recalls, “and it was OK to fly the flag at your house! Nobody had a problem with that!” Whether you recall American flag-flying ever being an issue in your neighborhood in, say, Chico, Calif., is beside the point. You nod right along, thinking, “Right on, Frankie!”
The Scintas are from Buffalo, N.Y., of which we are reminded repeatedly. They are Italian. Heavy-duty, “Sopranos”-like Italian. They point to Momma Scinta in the audience and Daddy Scinta in heaven, because as Frankie says, “He was a firefighter, and that’s where firefighters go.”
The act still features “Adopted Scinta” Peter O’Donnell, super-solid on drums, and a powerhouse backing band that easily fills the room with happy noise. The great void is that the sister in the act, Chrissi, has not returned and might never be back in the show because of lingering vocal concerns. Chrissi was not onstage on Wednesday’s media-night performance. Aside from a brief appearance weeks ago at the Monday night showcase at Tap House, she hasn’t performed in public for more than a year and a half.
The new singer as also been adopted as part of the onstage family unit, Janien Valentine. She can really sing and, as equally important, readily swap verbal jabs with the brothers.
The show’s sense of self, humor and style reminds of bygone TV variety shows. “The Carol Burnett Show” repeatedly springs to mind as the two brothers perform impressions of Martin & Lewis (Frankie might be the shortest Dean Martin impersonator on the planet), Neil Diamond and Joe Cocker. Joe nimbly handles the bass and six-string guitar, and Frankie is an adept multi-instrumentalist, picking up the mandolin and sitting at the piano.
The Scintas have been connected to Vegas for some time, having opened more than a decade ago at Shimmer Cabaret. They have skipped around, from The Rio to the Sahara, back to the Hilton, to the Suncoast and even for a triumphant one-off at The M Resort this year that drew about 2,000 fans.
Moving tickets at The D is the next order of business for The Scintas. I was caught up in their humor, their attitude, their attention to the shtick. After the show, I met up with Frankie, beaming from the rowdy performance.
He walked over, and I gave him a hug. Like a brother.