One Amazing Show!
Brandon Tomasello performs his idol Frank Sinatra’s songs in Resorts Casino Hotel’s Superstar Theater in Atlantic City
BY CHUCK DARROW
Philadelphia Daily News
Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer
Brandon Tomasello performs at Resorts Casino Hotel.
A SINGER DOING a Frank Sinatra tribute in an Atlantic City casino? Stop the freakin’ presses, right?
Not so fast. That isn’t just any singer paying homage to the showbiz immortal on the stage of Resorts Casino Hotel’s Superstar Theater. As a matter of fact, Brandon Tomasello, whose “Sing, Swing, Sinatra” program runs through Feb. 16, is unlike any performer in the almost 34-year-history of legal gambling in Atlantic City. After all, up until now, entertainers headlining extended-run presentations in AyCee have been old enough to gamble. Not so with Tomasello, who clocks in at a mere 19 years.
While most musically inclined people his age are far more interested in rap, country or pop, Tomasello – who grew up in his grandparents’ home at 12th and Porter in South Philly and attended the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School – pretty much only has eyes (or, more to the point, ears) for the music of the Great American Songbook as rendered by his hero, Francis Albert Sinatra. So why would a modern teen be so compelled by the 14-years-gone crooner that his wardrobe accessories and jewelry (an orange pocket hankie, a pinkie ring engraved with his family name) are based on those of his hero’s?
“I didn’t find Sinatra, Sinatra found me,” insisted Tomasello as he sat in his dressing room – the same one Ol’ Blue Eyes once used – after a recent performance.
Truth be told, Tomasello, whose rail-thin build definitely recalls Sinatra’s when the latter was the heartthrob of millions of 1940s bobby-soxers, simply couldn’t hide from the sounds of Sinatra. “It’s just because I grew up with him,” he said of his intense interest in Sinatra. “He’s like a family member. It was drilled into my head.”
It wasn’t that long ago Tomasello considered a career as, of all things, a funeral director. But once Stephen Garbesi, his best pal since third grade and the show’s technical director (he appears as both Tomasello’s DJ and onstage foil) heard him sing Sinatra a couple of years ago, the die was cast.
Tomasello is no stranger to Resorts. Casino co-owner/CEO Dennis Gomes was so impressed with Tomasello when he first heard him sing last summer that he invited him to be a regular attraction at the casino’s Whiskey Bar. “When I first discovered Brandon singing, I was blown away by his talent and knew he was destined to be a star,” said Gomes.
Another fan is entertainer Joe Piscopo, who knows a little something about performing Sinatra’s songs. “I think the ‘Old Man’ would be proud,” offered Piscopo. “The kid is so respectful of everything about the Sinatra name and family.
“Brandon’s timing is impeccable and his vulnerability onstage is warm yet very Sinatraesque. I will tell [him] stories about Mr. S. [and] about the music of Mr. S., and he will study and hang on each word like a brilliant student.”
At first, hearing such Sinatra signatures as “Fly Me to the Moon,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Summer Wind” doesn’t really bring to mind the original, for Tomasello’s voice is much higher than the burnished baritone for which Sinatra is best remembered. But in his earliest days, Sinatra’s vocals were considerably higher.
Tomasello more than compensates for the vocal disparity by displaying an impressive feel for his subject’s one-of-a-kind phrasing. And his easygoing stage presence and comfortable, self-deprecating between-song patter mark him as a natural entertainer, rather than simply someone with a strong set of pipes.
Interestingly, Tomasello admitted his fascination with Sinatra goes beyond his music to a specific character trait he shares with the music icon. He claimed that, “ever since I was little, I wanted to be in charge. I wanted to be the boss.”
The youthful vocalist doesn’t intend to forge a career as a Sinatra impersonator. Instead, he sees himself in the Michael Buble mold, a young singer keeping alive the prerock pop tradition but with a contemporary sensibility (the only non-Sinatra number in Tomasello’s set is Buble’s swinging take on Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”).
But to hear him tell it, what he does onstage is secondary to simply being onstage.
“I have to be an entertainer,” he proclaimed. “We just ended the show and I can’t wait until 3:30 tomorrow to get back up there.”
Young Blue Eyes The young Brandon Tomasello stars in Resorts’ new show ‘Swing, Sing, Sinatra’ through Feb. 16.
At first glance, there’s nothing really unique about what Brandon Tomasello is doing as he tries to make his way and find his place in the world of modern music.
In what’s becoming an increasingly common way of doing things, Tomasello is a singer whose musical support comes from a DJ spinning tracks in a booth, not from a traditional band.
But those tracks aren’t the pulsing, pounding, repetitive and bass-heavy sounds favored by today’s artists. Instead, the music pouring from the speakers is a sound that’s rapidly becoming an endangered species.
Backed by the big-band tracks of a 40-piece orchestra, Tomasello, who’s all of 19, is singing the songs of Frank Sinatra. What’s more, he’s channeling the music of Ol’ Blue Eyes on the same Atlantic City casino stage where Sinatra performed more than 30 years ago.
Barely six months after working his first solo gig at a church in Brigantine, Tomasello is currently headlining his own show, Swing, Sing Sinatra, in the Superstar Theatre at Resorts Casino Hotel. The show will be presented on select dates through Feb. 16.
“It was amazing just being able to walk up there and know that Sinatra stood right there in the middle of that stage,” the young Philadelphian says.
The way Tomasello landed the gig is equally amazing. He was first exposed to Sinatra’s music when he was eight and spent time at his grandmother’s home in South Philadelphia, where community rules decree that every house must contain a shrine to the Chairman of the Board.
Tomasello was instantly smitten by Sinatra’s voice, his style, the cooler-than-cool musical swagger that wafted from the speakers. He was so captivated by the music that he stole his grandmother’s collection of Sinatra CDs and played them over and over and over, committing the songs and the lyrical phrasing to memory.
“When you hear the same song 40 times in a row, you kind of remember them,” he says. “I listened to them so much that I knew where he took his breaths [during the songs] and remembered how he sang them.”
As he grew older, Tomasello enrolled in a performing arts charter school in Philadelphia, where he hooked up with a fellow student, Stephen Garbesi, who was also into music and recording from the technical side. Tomasello also joined the Philadelphia Boys Choir and performed around Philadelphia, including at the Kimmel Center. But he still wasn’t thinking of making music his career. He initially wanted to become a fighter pilot, until he landed a part-time job working in a funeral home.
“And then I wanted to become a funeral director,” he says.
Garbesi, who was in the process of setting up a small recording studio and knew Tomasello could sing, told his friend he was crazy. One day, Garbesi asked his buddy to step into the recording booth and sing a song so he could hear how the equipment sounded.
“I sang ‘Fly Me To The Moon,’ and as soon as I finished, [Garbesi] said ‘OK, that’s it, you’re making an album,’” he recalls.
The album was titled It’s My Time, and it eventually caught the attention of area publicist Neil Cirucci, who hooked Tomasello up with manager Joe Donofrio of Brigantine. Donofrio wrangled a showcase for Tomasello at a Brigantine church last July. Several weeks later, he got the teenager what was supposed to be a limited-run gig in The Whiskey Bar at Resorts, where he wowed casino president Dennis Gomes. The lounge gig was extended, and Gomes decided to start the new year off by moving Tomasello from the intimate 50-seat lounge into the casino’s 1,600-seat showroom.
With Garbesi spinning Sinatra’s musical tracks behind him, Tomasello made his casino showroom debut Jan. 4. He even gets to use the dressing room where Sinatra once prepped for his shows, and on his first night in the big room, he got to stay in the hotel suite where Sinatra slept during his Resorts gigs between 1979 and 1982.
Tomasello acknowledges his show as “mostly” a tribute to his musical idol.
“There’s a couple of songs in there that aren’t [Sinatra], just to switch it up a little bit,” he says. “I guess the best way to describe it is [that it’s] the same way Michael Bublé is doing it. He’s doing Sinatra, but he’s also doing other songs, kind of in a big-band way. So I’m not going to limit myself.”
While he likes the comfort level of having his friend backing him up as the DJ, Tomasello is also in the process of putting together a band. But even if the band replaces “DJ Beezy,” the two young men will continue to work together. Two years ago, they formed FIMA Productions, an entertainment company specializing in music, film, photography and Web design.
PressofAtlanticCity Swingin’ – and Singin’ – like Sinatra: Teen singer Brandon Tomasello moves to the big room at Resorts
Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2012 12:01 am | Updated: 6:20 am, Thu Jan 12, 2012.
Brandon Tomasello has gone from lounge act to headliner in a matter of months. The 19-year-old, who has been wowing patrons at The Whiskey Bar at Resorts Casino Hotel since his debut last summer, has moved up to the showroom.
Tomasello is the main attraction in “Sing Swing Sinatra,” a new show running through Feb. 16, at Resorts’ Superstar Theater.
“A lot of things came out of the lounge – the big thing that I was dreaming of was the Superstar Theater,” Tomasello says. “Every time I walked past the door to the theater, I would peek my head through the crack to look in the room. For me, it’s not the fact that it’s a big room, but look who’s performed in that room – everyone from Sinatra to Tony Bennett.”
Although Tomasello is a newcomer to Atlantic City stages, the part-time Brigantine resident is not worried about playing to big audiences. He’s performed on several occasions with the Philadelphia Boys Choir at the city’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, and has gotten his chops at the Whiskey Bar, where he continues to appear on Saturday nights.
“I’m more nervous in front of a smaller crowd,” he says. “For me, the more the merrier.”
Still, Tomasello acknowledges the daunting task of starring in a Sinatra-themed show. The production features him in a concert setting performing to tracks, including “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “All of Me,” “Mack the Knife” and other Sinatra standards.
“It’s not an impersonation,” says Tomasello, whose father is an audio engineer next door at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. “You can hear my own things in the songs, but there’s only so much you can change when you’re singing to Sinatra’s arrangements.”
Also on the setlist are non-Sinatra tracks, including “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
Having grown up with his grandparents in South Philadelphia, Tomasello comes by his love – and knowledge – of Sinatra naturally. He discovered his grandmother’s collection of CDs of Sinatra when he was 8, and after listening to “Young at Heart,” he was hooked.
“It was the thing to connect me to my grandparents – it was a common interest we shared, and it was fun hearing her tell stories about Sinatra,” he says.
But neither the Chairman of the Board nor show business figured much in Tomasello’s childhood ambitions, despite his attending the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School. He wanted to be a fighter pilot, and later thought he might go into the funeral business.
After creating a film and music production company with his childhood friend, Stephen Garbesi, while he was still in high school, Tomasello had an ah-ha moment. To test the recording booth, he tossed off a version of “Fly Me to the Moon” to the Sinatra arrangement.
“He said ‘You’re making an album,’” Tomasello recalls. “I said, ‘No I’m not, I’m going to be a funeral director.’”
Tomasello did make the album, “It’s My Time,” which came out in June. His career has since taken off.
His first real gig was performing “Save the Last Dance for Me” at the spring concert held by his old charter school at the Kimmel Center. His aunt then connected him to veteran A.C. area PR maven Neil Cirucci, who set up an audition for Brigantine-based producer-manager Joe D’Onofrio, which led to the job at Resorts.
Having immersed himself in the world of Sinatra, from his phrasing to his sartorial choices – Tomasello had replicas of cufflinks and a pinky ring made for Sinatra by South Philly jeweler D. Olivieri – Tomasello still knows he has much more to glean.
“I didn’t choose Sinatra – Sinatra chose me,” he says. “I want to keep learning the songs and improve my singing and technique.”
In the meantime, he recognizes the opportunity in his new show.
“(Opening night) is the biggest day of my life so far,” he says.
Thumbs up from Joe Piscopo
Brandon Tomasello, the young star of “Sing Swing Sinatra,” says he “instantly clicked” with entertainer Joe Piscopo over their shared love of all things related to the Chairman of the Board.
Piscopo, left, who had his own club at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City last summer, gave Tomasello a thumbs up during one of his early performances at the casino’s Whiskey Bar.
“Joe would tell me stories of when he met Sinatra – to me, that’s like meeting God. That’s something I’ll never be able to do,” Tomasello says.
Tomasello also has surprised Piscopo with his attention to Sinatra details, including commissioning replicas of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ cufflinks and a pinky ring and by finding patent shoes like the ones Sinatra wore in the ’50s and ’60s.
When Piscopo saw the latter, he quipped: “Where did you get them? Do you have his underwear, too?”
Resorts Casino Hotel, Atlantic City Presents Brandon Tomasello “Sing Swing Sinatra” At The Superstar Theater. Video Editing by Christine Steiner. Video Produced by Lew Steiner, Publisher Atlantic City Weekly and ACWeekly.com.
Resorts Casino Hotel introduces Brandon Tomasello with his one-man show, “Sing Swing Sinatra” to the Superstar Theater, January 4 – February 16
Resorts Casino Hotel introduces Brandon Tomasello with his one-man show, “Sing Swing Sinatra” to the Superstar Theater, January 4 – February 16
(Atlantic City, NJ) December 19, 2011 – A new face and a timeless classic converge on the stage at the Superstar Theater in 2012. The all new Resorts Casino Hotel announced Brandon Tomasello will present “Sing Swing Sinatra,” his first headlining stage show in the Superstar Theater January 4 – February 16, 2012.
“When I first discovered Brandon singing I was blown away by his talent and knew he was destined to be a star,” said Dennis C. Gomes, owner, president and C.E.O. of Resorts Casino Hotel. “His performances in the The Whiskey Bar at Resorts have grown over the past few months with rave reviews from our guests, and we are thrilled to bring him to the Superstar Theater in 2012.”
Brandon Tomasello stole his first record at age 8 and he kept stealing them until he had his first collection. It just happened that all those records he was taking were from his Grandmother and were all Frank Sinatra’s music, influencing a style and voice that is iconic throughout the music industry. The combination of the young, fresh-faced Brandon Tomasello and the legendary Frank Sinatra shows just how timeless these hits are. When brought to life on a stage that Sinatra himself performed on, Brandon will have audiences believing they are back in the height of the Rat Pack’s fame.
Brandon Tomasello has it all. Charming and hip with an energy channeling the memory and vibe of the Chairman of the Board, the greatest saloon singer who ever lived. The show takes you through Sinatra’s monochrome Capitol years to his Technicolor hits on Reprise. Brandon grabs his own laughs during the 75 minute show, sharing personal stories and anecdotes, capturing the true essence of his magnetic personality and captivating voice.
Brandon Tomasello will perform “Sing Swing Sinatra” in the Superstar Theater select dates from January 4 – February 16. Tickets are priced at $20. For a complete list of times and show schedules please visit www.resortsac.com. Tickets can be purchased at Resorts’ Box Office or through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com or 1.800.745.3000.
Appropriately, “The Kid” will be carrying the Chairman’s “torch” every Saturday night through New Years Eve at Resort’s “Torch Whiskey Bar”. The Torch has now become Tomasello’s ‘home away from home” for the South Philly performer. There’s an old saying that “seeing is believing” and every Saturday night you can see for yourself why entertainment insiders have dubbed Brandon Tomasello, “the Young Sinatra”