Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael Proudly Presents: Franc D’Ambrosio and Stephanie Lynne Smith
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Friday, Aug. 27 and Saturday, Aug. 28
Doors 5:30 p.m., Start 7:30 p.m.
Feinstein’s Cabaret – Carmel, IN
Join us for an evening of Broadway’s most memorable classics and revivals with an entertainer known for his record-breaking run as the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning musical “The Phantom of the Opera.” Franc D’Ambrosio played the role of Anthony Corleone, the opera-singing son of Al Pacino and Diane Keaton’s characters in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather III,” just re-released as “Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone” by Paramount Pictures in December 2020. D’Ambrosio lived and studied with famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti in the summer of 1991, later founding the Lorenzo Malfatti Vocal Academy in Lucca, Italy, for students of opera and musical theater.
D’Ambrosio is accompanied by Stephanie Lynne Smith, who has toured with the legendary Broadway singer/actor since 2012. Ms. Smith is proud to be a collaborator, musical director and pianist for D’Ambrosio’s critically acclaimed one-man shows in venues throughout the United States.
Prepare to be dazzled with songs from some of Broadway’s greatest hits like “Kiss Me Kate,” “Hamilton,” “Jersey Boys,” “Wicked” and more. You don’t want to miss out on an unforgettable night! For tickets and additional information, visit feinsteinshc.com.
Editor’s Note: On Feb. 3, 2020, Franc was knighted by order of the President of the Republic of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, in a private ceremony at the Italian Consulate General in San Francisco. His official title, “Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia,” is the highest honor the Italian government can bestow on a foreigner and is conferred upon Italian expatriates who have greatly contributed to the preservation of the Italian spirit, culture and national prestige abroad. In May 2018, Franc was honored to receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the third annual Cannes Global Short Film Awards Gala during the 71st Annual Cannes Film Festival.
Janelle Morrison: Being able to return to live performances has been incredible for the audiences who’ve been craving live entertainment and the humanity that happens throughout these shared experiences. I can only imagine what it’s like for the performers. I would like to thank you both for coming to Carmel—this is a big deal for our community.
Franc D’Ambrosio: It’s a big deal for us because it’s our first show back since the pandemic. I’ve known Michael [Feinstein] for many years. So, we can’t think of a better place to perform than at one of Michael’s places and in Indiana, where I’ve played so many times and have always enjoyed being there.
Stephanie Lynne Smith: Our last live performance [before COVID-19] was at Feinstein’s in San Francisco, and our first performance back will be at Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael!
D’Ambrosio: I have friends who have performed in that room, and they love it. So, it’s getting around the Broadway and theatrical community that it’s a destination.
JM: I understand that your family are generational bakers and that you grew up in Bronx, New York, over the family bakery. How did you go from working in the bakery to performing arts?
D’Ambrosio: I come from seven generations of Italian bakers. My family came to America from Sicily. Music was always a part of family. There was always opera or some type of music on in the bakery. As young as I can remember, I was working in the bakery. By the time I was 14, I was working nights on the weekends from 7 o’clock at night till 7 o’clock in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights. I didn’t realize that I could actually sing until I was about 16. My sister’s got an absolutely gorgeous voice, and she was singing to the radio. I mimicked her, and all of a sudden, I realized I could sing, and that’s literally how I discovered my voice in that way. I realized that I had a huge passion for it and found that I enjoyed utilizing the lyrics so that I could merge both the musical and the dramatic intent and not just sing the song but live truthfully under the imaginary circumstances of the song. Every song is not just a song sung, to me but a monologue or a scene that I put myself in the character to make it personal to me.
JM: You were one of 2,000 people that auditioned for the role of Anthony Corleone in “Godfather III”—the last film of an iconic trilogy. How did you prepare for this role?
D’Ambrosio: I had 10 auditions and two screen tests, and it wasn’t until the eighth audition that they told me that I was auditioning for “Godfather III.” It was called the “Secret Journal II.” The casting director called me and said that they wanted me to come in and sing and read for Francis [Coppola], and I was like OK—what’s going on? The director told me, “You don’t know? Well—this film is ‘Godfather III.’”
I was told that Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount Pictures wanted an actual singer and didn’t want someone to lip sync. A lot of people in Hollywood wanted this role too—not just actors from all over the world. It’s probably the only time that I will ever beat out Tom Cruise for a role.
JM: As this was your first experience working on a film, what was it like working with iconic talents such as Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, Diane Keaton and Eli Wallach?
D’Ambrosio: It was beautiful. I had never been in a film before, had never auditioned for a film before, and they all took me in underneath their wings. They all mentored me and knew that I was open to learning, so they were very willing to help me.
JM: Speaking of mentoring, the famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti also became a mentor of yours. What—beyond technique—did he teach you about life?
D’Ambrosio: I spent three months with him at his summer villa in Pesaro, Italy, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It is absolutely beautiful. I drove up on a Vespa scooter to the villa gates, and Pavarotti was laying on a hammock, smoking a cigar. He told me that he had listened to the prerecorded tapes that I sang for the ‘Godfather’ [film] and was very interested in my voice. He was very gracious. We spent the whole summer together. One time, he was talking about balance and his life, and he said to me, “Franc, if you ever have to stop living to sing—stop singing.”
I think he saw very early on how ambitions and tenacious I was. He realized that I was probably so hyper-focused, and that was some advice that I needed to take. He was correct.
When I did over 2,100 performances of “Phantom,” there were times when I clearly had to step out of life for long periods of time in order to give an opening night performance—every night. That was my commitment I made. I never disrespect my audience and that experience. I couldn’t live with myself if I did.
Smith: I’ve been touring with him for about 10 years, and he does not only stage performances, but there’s a lot of private dinner parties and private events. Franc does not disappear into the backroom and appear later. He eats dinner with everyone and talks to the guests. He is part of the party. That’s something that I really appreciate touring with him. He’s very generous and has to shake every hand. He really took Pavarotti’s advice to heart and is very authentic with people.
JM: Barry Manilow also played a big part in your artistic development. In what way did he improve your showmanship?
D’Ambrosio: I was performing on the “Copacabana” [pre-Broadway] tour in New York City, and Barry came over from London. I had a hard time being an “entertainer.” At that point, I’d only been a singer and an actor. Barry looked at me and said, “Franc, you’re a better singer than I am.” I said, “Well, that’s a nice compliment—thank you.” Then Barry added, “But I’m a much better entertainer than you are. I’m going to show you how to do this.” And for five weeks in NYC, we took a half hour of each day, went to the studio, and Barry would perform and show me what he does and how he communicates with his audiences. I learned that from him.
JM: After 2,100 performances as the Phantom, you and your character must have evolved from the first performance to the end of your extraordinary run. When it was all over, what did you take away from that experience?
D’Ambrosio: What a lot of audiences don’t understand or always appreciate is that even though we’re acting up there, we are feeling every emotion. What you witnessed the Phantom having up there, I was feeling. I always say that the most important thing is to have an intimate relationship with your audience. Intimacy—as I define it—is growing, revealing and discovering yourself in the presence of another individual.
Throughout my run of the Phantom, I realized that I needed to be that vulnerable and have that level of intimacy so that I could live truthfully underneath the imaginary circumstances and to let the audiences witness me growing, revealing and discovering myself throughout the evening.
The audiences weren’t voyeurs to my pain. I was giving them a portal to their own experiences. That is what I learned.