When an abrupt cut-to-black concluded one of the most eminent series in the history of television, turmoil erupted among millions of viewers.
In the moment, bewildered fans might have blamed the blackout on faulty TVs, cable boxes or HBO subscriptions. But, every last bit of silence and blank screen was deliberate.
More than a decade later, the exhaustively analyzed scene of the 2007 series finale of The Sopranos continues to keep fans awake at night. But, local aficionados will soon have the opportunity to probe cast members of the groundbreaking HBO show on their own insight surrounding the contentious ending.
“Oh, it’s always asked by the audience,” Michael Imperioli, who portrayed the role of Christopher Moltisanti, told the Review. “Always.”
Imperioli refers to attendees of the touring “Sinatra Meets the Sopranos” showcase, a dual tribute to two Italian-American institutions, which is stopping by the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City on Saturday, Aug. 10.
The “evening of songs and stories” will be set to the sounds of Frank Sintra stylist Michael Martocci and his Ol’ Blue Eyes Orchestra, which is coupled with conversations surrounding the TV series featuring cast members Imperioli, Steven Schirripa (Bobby ‘Bacala’) and Vincent Pastore (‘Big Pussy’ Bonpensiero). The festivities will be hosted by NJ 101.5 and Chasing News Host Bill Spadea.
“If you’re a fan of the show, you’re going to get an inside look at what it was like and how we got the jobs and what it was like on the set, what it was like off the set,” Imperioli said. “What are the funny stories. What are the sad stories? What were the difficulties? What were the joys?”
The successful showcase, which kicked off in Connecticut this summer, falls on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the legendary series, which, aside from clinching numerous Emmys, Golden Globes and Peabody Awards during its eight-year run, is widely hailed as one of the most influential works to hit the television industry.
Imperioli, who won a 2004 Emmy himself for his performance on the show, describes, the marriage of Sinatra and The Sopranos as seamless.
“There’s an affinity that Italian-Americans feel for both…Naturally, there’s a connection between Sinatra and The Sopranos,” he said. “A, the Jersey connection is one. And B, it’s Italian-American culture. Despite some people’s objections to the portrayals of Italian-Americans in The Sopranos, it’s actually a very beloved show toward most Italian-Americans – at least from what I’ve learned over the years.”
Imperioli notes that, since the show’s ending, the cast has hosted live conversations with audiences, including a recent six-city tour in Australia. But, Sinatra Meets the Sopranos feels especially intimate with fans.
While the panel includes some cerebral discussion, such as the actors’ analysis of their craft, Imperioli says the overall show is rooted in comedy – much like the series itself.
“The show kind of skews toward a comedic angle, but it also does get serious and poignant at some points,” he said.
The performance opens with Martocci’s renowned renditions of Sinatra’s greatest hits accompanied by a 20-piece orchestra that features musicians who once played alongside Sinatra.
“(Audiences) can expect a guy who is one of the best Sinatra stylists around doing all of the great Sinatra tunes,” Imperioli said. “There’s a real authenticity to the music and a real big sound, and Michael does a great job.”
The cast then engages in a series of talking points about their experiences on and off the screen, including life before and after their tenures on the legendary show.
Finally, questions are opened to the audience, which, as Imperioli says, is almost always an unpredictable experience.
Though inquiries are contemplative at times and scandalous at others, Imperioli often finds himself astonished by the reactions he continues to receive about his iconic character.
“I killed 20-something people on the show, probably, but the fact that I sat on a dog really bothers people,” he said. “All the murders I committed somehow is justified or something.”
Based on past Sinatra Meets the Sopranos events, Imperioli thinks the tribute has shed light on both the reminiscent and reviving nature of the HBO series.
While original fans frequently reflect on memories of watching the show with loved ones every Sunday night at 9 p.m., a new generation of viewers, particularly those who were too young to watch the show when it was on the air, has breathed new life into the series.
“That – I had no idea was going to happen, and that is not always the case with television shows,” Imperioli said. “So, there’s been a bit of a resurgence.”
For fans young and old, though, all audiences can expect the unexpected at Sinatra Meets the Sopranos.
And, perhaps, even some intel on that final Sopranos scene.
“Just when you think you know everything about your favorite show, all of a sudden, you hear from another point of view – from an inside point of view,” Imperioli said. “And, what looks like one thing on the surface is not always what the truth was…At the end of the day, we were actors playing characters, so how did we do that? If you’re a fan of the show, you’re not going to be disappointed.”
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