Steve Lippia sings Frank Sinatra just like Old Blue Eyes himself did. But when he's on stage, he wants you to know exactly who you're listening to.
"I'm not one of these cheesy impersonators that you see," Lippia said in a recent interview from his home in Las Vegas. "I don't put on a tuxedo and a pinky ring and a fedora and pretend to be Sinatra. I honestly think that's pretty pathetic."
No, Lippia's show, "Simply Sinatra," doesn't try to trick the audience into thinking The Chairman of the Board is alive and well. Rather, it's a tribute to the man and to music that even today stands larger than life.
Steve Lippia will perform Frank Sinatra songs at A Night for the Mishler on March 3.
"Frank Sinatra had such a profound impact on our culture," Lippia said. "He was a rebel in a tuxedo. He was a man's man, he was a ladies' man. He won an Oscar ... he became a pop culture icon."
Lippia's show - complete with 16-piece big band - will take center stage at this year's A Night for the Mishler. The annual Mishler Theatre fundraiser, now in its eighth year, will begin at 8 p.m. March 3. There are also tickets that include an accompanying pre-show dinner at the Heritage Discovery Center and a post-show dessert reception.
The theme for the night, in a nod to Lippia's performance, is "Vintage Vegas, Vintage Venue, Vintage Voice."
If you go
What: A Night for the Mishler, featuring Steve Lippia's "Simply Sinatra"
When: 8 p.m. March 3
Where: Mishler Theatre, Altoona
Tickets: $37.50 for performance only and $125 for performance, pre-show dinner at the Heritage Discovery Center and post-show dessert reception. Tickets can be purchased at the Mishler box office, by calling 944-9434 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
weekdays or online at www.mishlertheatre.com
The performance had immediate appeal, said Kate Shaffer, executive director of the Blair County Arts Foundation, which produces the show each year.
"Someone had seen him in Johnstown last March or April and they said to me, 'You should really take a look at Steve Lippia,'" she said. "So I went on his website and immediately said, 'Yup, that's it.'"
Coincidentally, Lippia's music career had a similarly immediate beginning. The Connecticut native was living in Florida, occasionally sitting in with a few bands and putting singing firmly on the back burner. Then an acquaintance introduced him to a friend who happened to work for the William Morris Agency.
The talent agent watched Lippia sing and ... well, everything moved pretty quickly from there.
"Within a year of that meeting, they had me headlining in Vegas in a room that was built for me," Lippia said.
That was nearly 12 years ago. For a long time, he was exclusively a Las Vegas performer, but today he says "90 percent of my performing is touring now."
Those touring performances often feature his interpretations of classic American standards, but his Sinatra shows have proven most popular.
"I've always been a singer, and this is just a show that people seem to like," Lippia said. "I think it's the single most popular of the shows I offer. There's still a lot of people around who grew up listening to that music... it's kind of there in our lives, it's kind of the background of our lives."
According to Lippia, Sinatra's many classic songs, like "I've Got You Under My Skin," "My Way," "That's Life" and "Luck Be a Lady," have found a new audience in this generation.
"There are a lot of younger people who are fascinated by this music," he said. "When you start to really listen to his music and you peel back his layers ... there was a lot of technical skill that he brought to his songs.
"That's why I think his music is still popular today. That's why I think people 25 to 50 years from now will still be listening to this music."
That timeless quality should appeal to the local audience, Shaffer said.
"There's still a huge fanbase for Frank Sinatra," she said. "The first time I listened to Steve Lippia sing, I closed my eyes and it was Frank Sinatra. I knew our audience was going to love that."
The show continues a string of appealing, though wildly different, events held at A Night for the Mishler.
"Every year it's just a completely different event," Shaffer said. "Last year we had the Three Redneck Tenors and now we have this elegant, more refined Sinatra performance.
"We generally have the same group of people each year at the dinner but we generally have a completely different audience [from year to year] for the theater performance."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.