Las Vegas Show ‘Heist’ to Illuminate Unsung Italian Influence on American Music Industry

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Poised to premiere at the Rio in Las Vegas is a show offering a unique, cultural perspective – “Heist.” This innovative production places a spotlight on Italian songwriters, whose music was often absorbed into the American musical landscape, often without the public’s awareness of its original roots.

The principal performers in “Heist” are the five-part ensemble Limoncello, a band composed of Tony Sgro, Nieve Malandra, and Tony Silva, among other talents. Sgro, a prominent Las Vegas attorney, compelling guitarist, and a proud first-generation Italian-American, is the band’s frontman, driving the theatrical narrative with his insightful commentary and musical interpretations.

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While the USA maintains an abundance of celebrations for diverse cultures, Sgro suggests that Italian heritage and culture may not receive equal attention, despite its significant influence on the music industry, particularly in Las Vegas. He has designed the “Heist” to rectify this discrepancy, by reciting the behind-the-scenes stories of some legendary tunes and their true origins.

The show highlights the likes of ‘It’s Now or Never,’ a renowned Elvis Presley track. Despite the tune’s popularity during Presley’s seven-year stint in Las Vegas, astonishingly few people know its melody was practically stolen, verbatim, from the Neapolitan classic, “’O sole mio,” penned by Eduardo di Capua in 1898.

The infamous Laura Branigan track, “Gloria,” which became a dance sensation in 1982, provides another example. Sung in English by Branigan, the tune was, in fact, born three years prior in Italian and was composed by Umberto Tozzi. However, Tozzi’s original iteration found its place in pop culture, featuring in the 2013 blockbuster film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Equally intriguingly, Sgro contends that Frank Sinatra, the legendary Rat Pack leader and Las Vegas luminary, was himself another purloined gem taken from the Italian people. Sinatra is unanimously embraced as an American icon, but his Italian heritage is, Sgro asserts, often overlooked. His mission is to remind the audience that Sinatra’s influential legacy embodies Italian roots too.

“Heist” is scheduled to debut on Thursday, Sept 28 at the Rio, inside the Duomo — translating to “church” in Italian — which is also home to Cupola Italian Café, a fast-casual eatery. The theater has a capacity for 300 guests, promising an intimate and engaging experience.