Milwaukee makes Franc D'Ambrosio want to sing
Franc D'Ambrosio has played a disfigured opera phantom and a Corleone; he's sung on Broadway, in Academy Award-nominated film scores and all across the country.
Tonight, he's singing here in his grandmother's hometown of Milwaukee at the Peck Pavilion.
"My grandmother has since passed, but she grew up in Milwaukee and even though she moved to New York City and met my grandfather, she never lost her Midwest accent," he said. "And she was always talking about Milwaukee, Milwaukee – she talked about Milwaukee as if it was Rome. It was beautiful, it was where everything was."
D'Ambrosio is appearing as part of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts' Live @ Peck Pavilion music series. He talked with OnMilwaukee about his experiences in the movies (he played Al Pacino's son in "The Godfather Part III"), on Broadway as the Phantom of the Opera and what it was like to be a student of Luciano Pavarotti.
OnMilwaukee.com: What can the audience expect tonight?
Franc D'Ambrosio: The show is called "Franc D'Ambrosio's Broadway" and the tagline is "from the Bronx to Broadway and beyond," because I'm from the Bronx. It's a one-man Broadway show, fully written, directed and produced by a New York and L.A. team. I've been touring with it for the past six years. It's the exact show I did at Carnegie Hall.
OMC: Can a lot of Broadway standards be expected?
FD: Absolutely. From "Les Mis" to obviously "Phantom of the Opera" to Bridgadoon ... there's a huge Bob Fosse medley. I sang the Academy Award-winning theme song from "The Godfather" ("Speak Softly, Love") so I'll be doing that, of course. It will be a real fun, fun, fun evening and it's not just what we call a park and bark kind of concert. "And for my next number I would like to sing..." and all that. There's fun stories that lead in and out of the songs. It's not so much concertizing as it is a Broadway show.
OMC: What has been your favorite role to play?
FD: The Phantom of the Opera.
OMC: You were very quick to answer.
FD: Yeah, because it's absolutely the key to my brain and to my heart. I really, really, really had the best time singing that, of all my roles.
OMC: What is it about that show that has captivated audiences for over 20 years?
FD: I think a couple of things. First off the music is just beautiful. Really just beautiful. And though it is operatic, it's still very accessible. It's not so, you know, so, so, so over-the-top opera that you can't even understand the words. And I think the actual story of the love. True, true love. The story between the Phantom and Christine is timeless.
OMC: You played Al Pacino's son in "The Godfather Part III" and studied for a summer with Luciano Pavarotti in Italy. What was it like working with these legends?
FD: I think when you work with people who are at the top of their game, they are incredibly gracious people. Just very, very nice people. They don't have anything to prove. They've been there, they've done it, they trust that what they do is done well and appreciated and so what they have is this generosity of spirit.
OMC: Hal Prince, the director of "The Phantom of the Opera," said that you "act like Marlon Brando, and sing like Mario Lanza." That's some high praise.
FD: I guess I ... it's hard to say what I feel like when I read that. It always reminds me that it's my responsibility to live up to those quotes. It's always my responsibility to make sure I give my 150 percent and give that opening night performance every single night.
OMC: How are you enjoying Milwaukee?
FD: I was out walking around over the weekend with one of my musicians. We were waking around the Downtown area along the river and everyone was having such a good time and the boats are going back and forth and everything, and the spirit of the city ... and I looked to my musician and I said, "Doesn't this city just make you want to sing?" He looked at me and smiled an said, "Yeah."
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