It probably is a long time since the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall was jumping as much last night (July 12, 2017) when Francesca Capetta produced and starred in a centennial tribute to Dean Martin, with songs that he sang making up the program. Capetta is an attractive, vibrant force with a strong voice, an entertaining style both as a singer and host, and she set a fun tone to the Dino tribute. Having come here from Italy four years ago, she still displays a charming, slight remainder of accent that adds flavor.
Capetta enhanced the concert with additional performances by Stacy Sullivan and the renowned Broadway star Liliane Montevecchi, plus a nine-member back-up chorus, the accompaniment by pianist and musical director Ian Herman, plus Russell Farhang on violin and Charlie Caranicas on trumpet. And Martin was certainly there in spirit, thanks not only to the recollection of his songs but via the anecdotes Capetta spun about him, including his long-running television show that earned him millions. (Alas, there was no mention of the Martin’s popular roasts that can still be seen on Youtube.)
I had first heard Capetta in a Broadway Rising Stars performance at The Town Hall, and in my review praised her for dynamically singing “God Help the Outcasts” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Last night she demonstrated how adept she could be in conceiving and staging a concert. She excelled, for example, in singing such Martin stalwarts as “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes,” and “Volare.” She also resorted to her native Italian in singing “Senza Fine” by Gino Paoli.
Stacy Sullivan took the stage with her customary vocal expertise in singing poignant renditions of “On the Street Where You Live” and “Blue Moon.” Then she and Capetta joined for some mutual fun. “I’m from Oklahoma and Francesca is from Italy, so together we make a spaghetti western,” Sullivan cracked, and they proceeded to sing a lively “Don’t Fence Me In.”
Montevecchi’s participation was a hoot. Clad in a tight-fitting black outfit, the legendary Broadway star began by bending over and touching the floor with her hands to prove she could still do it at her stated age of 85. More importantly, she showed that she could still deliver a song in a respectable voice, singing “C’est Magnifique” and “I Love Paris.” Montevecchi seemed to be having a great time playing up to an adoring audience.
Capetta capitalizes on her Italian heritage. She got a big laughs recounting a story about her mangled accent when she first came to the U.S., a story she has probably dined out on over the years. She told how when she stayed at a hotel with an unmade bed she called down to the desk and said she needed to have a sheet. After being advised to use the toilet, she clarified, “No, I need a sheet on the bed.” That only made it worse, so she had to go in person to explain.
The hour-long tribute came across more like a nightclub or theater staging than a concert, and it breezed by with well-coordinated pizzazz and the appeal of Capetta and her stars. At the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, 154 West 47th Street. Reviewed July 13, 2017.