Talent and boundless energy are a winning combination for Stratosphere headliner Frankie Moreno
By John Katsilometes
Photography by Christopher DeVargas
Lighting design by Big French
Hair and makeup by Sarah Barker
Styling by StaciMichelle
Frankie Moreno stood at the top of a set of stairs as a studio audience and, more importantly, a national TV audience of about 14 million people was watching Dancing With The Stars. This would be a two-and-a-half-minute sprint through a two-song medley of his own “Tangerine Honey” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Wild Child,” as pro dancer Lacey Schwimmer and former contestant Kyle Massey leapt and spun and bounded about.
During the moments leading to a performance where he would reach more people than ever before, Moreno had a single, overarching thought: Is the piano plugged in?
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung into a microphone that hasn’t been turned on, or played a keyboard that has not been plugged in,” says Moreno, who for a decade was a lounge performer in Las Vegas before signing with the Stratosphere in 2011. “I’m standing there, 20 seconds before I’m supposed to go on, looking down and thinking, ‘Has someone touched the piano? Is it on? Has it been plugged in?’”
The piano, like the performer, was in top condition. Moreno and the dance team of Schwimmer/Massey unleashed two and a half minutes of kinetic energy that drew a roar from the audience and a one-word review from show co-host Tom Bergeron, who later told Moreno, simply, “Congratulations.”
A year earlier, Moreno was performing at such Vegas haunts as the Lounge at the Palms, Ravello Lounge at M Resort, Mizuya Lounge at Mandalay Bay and Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental.
Those appearances generated powerful word-of-mouth accounts about Moreno’s terrific stage show and songwriting capabilities. He drew interest from a few Strip resorts, and officials from the Stratosphere caught one of his Palms performances. Soon, he was that hotel’s resident headliner, completing a lounge-to-showroom arc that is rare among today’s Vegas performers.
On Nov. 9, Moreno celebrated his one-year anniversary at the Stratosphere, along with the recent release of his self-titled album. Even he is startled by the swift changes that have unfolded over the past 12 months. “There was a lot of buzz happening, spiraling up, and you got the feeling that something was about to happen,” Moreno said during an interview in the infamous Black Room at the Stratosphere, his pre- and postshow hangout. “There was a thought that we’d open in January, do a big official premiere, but I said, ‘Why wait? We have a local following. A soft opening? What’s that mean?’ I was ready to go.”
In June, the Stratosphere extended Moreno’s contract by two years, meaning he is under formal agreement with the hotel through 2015. Good thing, since his Dancing With the Stars appearance has resulted in sold-out shows. Recently, he has helped design and cast the new production show replacing Bite, which left the Stratosphere in October.
Moreno’s stage show has been cut from about 1 hour, 45 minutes to closer to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Songs have been moved in and out, and a new song, “Angel Town,” is planned for the anniversary show. As always, Moreno’s goal is to keep up the momentum. “I am all about playing, traveling, writing,” he says. “I’m not a person who will be in a room 44 weeks a year. The Stratosphere is great because I can fly away to Italy or Pittsburgh or Canada. Wherever. Then I can come back and play Vegas and keep the show fresh.”
All he needs is for the piano to be ready for action. And in Frankie Moreno’s career, it always is.
Frankie Moreno wears Virtuoso by Frankie Moreno, available only at Expert Tailors, experttailorlv.com; Show violinist Jennifer Lynn wears Bebe sequined feather dress ($198), available at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort, Giuseppe Zanotti bejeweled sandal ($1,450), available at The Forum Shops at Caesars, earrings ($225), Alexis Bittar sculptural bracelet ($295), both available at Saks Fifth Avenue in Fashion Show
Cellist Lindsey Springer wears Diane von Furstenberg pleated dress ($475), available at The Shoppes at The Palazzo, Christian Louboutin Decorapump strass platform shoes ($3,895) and Eddie Borgo earrings ($600), both available at Neiman Marcus in Fashion Show, Rachel Zoe bracelet ($595), available at Saks Fifth Avenue in Fashion Show;
Violinist Monique Olivas wears Nicole Miller dress ($465), Yves Saint Laurent shoe ($895) and Alexis Bittar necklace ($495), all available at Neiman Marcus, Alexis Bittar ring ($295) and earrings ($295), both available at Saks Fifth Avenue