For the past decade, veteran comedian and character actor Stephen Sorrentino has been a top headliner in Las Vegas and Atlantic City — and developed a reputation as a true impressionist icon. But, as the Strip began to re-open post-lockdown, fans and locals learned that Stephen had packed his bags and left Sin City to pursue other projects. His starring role in the indie film “A Tale of Redemption and Regret With Sunny the Heat” is receiving rave reviews and sweeping awards on the film festival circuit. In true dramatic form, Sorrentino re-invented himself during the pandemic and is bringing the “Heat” on the big screen.
VENTS caught up with Stephen at the Chain NYC Film Festival where “A Tale of Redemption and Regret…” won top comedy honors.
VENTS: For most, listening to the voices in our heads can be problematic — for you, it meant stardom. Why the difference?
STEPHEN: I don’t think there’s much difference at all. I think we all have voices in our heads. They tell us where to go and what to do. I think it’s how we use those voices that make the difference. The voice of creativity is loud and clear for us all when we clear away all the BS in our lives and other people’s expectations and directives.
About 28 years ago, I created a vision goal called “MAC” (not the makeup line, unfortunately). I wrote about it in my journal every day. I wished for a “life filled with MAC.” Music, Acting & Comedy is what I wanted to fill each day with and little else. It was my dream. I wrote daily and listened to the “voices” of creativity, invention, music, comedy, and theatrics. I believe those voices helped me create my long-running Las Vegas musical comedy show, “Voices in My Head,” as well as film projects, television shows, commercials, and voice-overs. I remember walking on the boardwalk in Atlantic City and hearing the voices whisper the seeds of inspiration and creativity. At the end of that summer, I had a full 90 min show that was completely original and ready to put up on stages worldwide.
Over the years, “Voices in my Head” has played throughout Europe, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas. It’s been a solid 25 year, ever-evolving rollercoaster ride.
I believe that we are all born with a script in our hearts. When other people attempt to rewrite it, it makes no sense. You will keep your ” script ” true to yourself by listening to the voice of creativity, the voice of inspiration, the voice of manifestation that is within; you will keep your “script” true to yourself. My belief is that if we stay true to ourselves, we are guaranteed success and happiness.
So far, the voices in my head have served me well.
Although once I did have a woman asked for her money back because she thought it was a lecture on mental illness. After sitting through the 90-minute show complete with 12 piece orchestra and 10 dancer/showgirls… I think she needed more than her money back….So I gave her the $50. and an autographed T-shirt. She took the $50. And gave the T-Shirt to a kid who was dumbfounded. He asked me to sign his name on it and could he have $50 as well………
VENTS: Which impressions did you attempt, but ultimately fail at?
STEPHEN: When I was 18 and well before tribute shows were a real thing, I dressed up as Alice Cooper, complete with a 5ft Boa constrictor, full makeup, and a prop electric chair.
I was slim at the time and had long hair, and looked a lot like Alice when I went into the Alice Cooper portion of the show.
Doing Alice Cooper’s voice would pretty much blow me out for the remaining sets each night. There is no singing Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, or Journey songs after a set of Alice Cooper tunes. After the first month of doing the Cooper set, the snake bit me in the face twice during the show, and I got electrocuted three times due to a faulty wire in the prop electric chair. Before long, we decided to burn “Alice” at the stake in a club.
My pant leg caught on fire as the club manager doused me with a healthy dose of CO2, which still today, I cannot hear the two words “frozen” and “nuts” together in the same sentence.
After I thawed out, the fire department came in and closed the club for the rest of my run. By the end of that year, due to generous portions of beer on our breaks and late-night dinners, I had gained enough weight to “overfill” my Alice Cooper outfit. So there I was, a vocally blown out, snake bitten, electrocuted, burnt, and partially frozen plump Alice Cooper.
I was happy to hang up my Alice Cooper act forever!!!!
VENTS: Now, you’re bringing the Heat — tell us about packing your bags and leaving Sin City.
STEPHEN: I am happy to be returning to the Las Vegas strip until the end of the year. Performing as a musical comedian covers all of the bases of ability, and it’s fun as hell. I do prop comedy, stand up, improvisation, and play the flute, saxophone, piano, and guitar. I also sing an entertaining range of songs by Joe Cocker, Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Luciano Pavarotti, Sonny and Cher, Joan Rivers, Tom Jones, Peewee Herman, Jerry Lewis, Bruno Mars, and many more.
There are also dead-ringer segments of the Bee Gees, José Feliciano, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Styx, Sammy Davis Jr, Frankie Valli, and of course, my tribute to Elton John. For me, diversity is key to staying fresh on stage and truly living out my fantasy of being a nine-year old and just having fun!
VENTS: Is Sunny your long-lost alter ego or just another role?
STEPHEN: Just another role? Hell no! I am Sunny, damn it.
Seriously, the moment I received the script, I identified with the character. I think anyone who has lived and been successful at something and then had to evolve can completely identify with Sunny. He was a big shot. He had his day and is desperately trying to stay relevant. I think anyone over 40 can relate. The best part about this short film is that we root for Sunny despite being a bad guy. We want him to succeed. He is stuck in the 80s at best and only knows how to do things a certain way. I don’t think Sunny is willing to step aside or give up either. I tried to give Sunny some depth and humor.
I wanted the audience to be on his side and to see his venerability behind the tough facade. It is a complex character that I fell in love with as writer/director Eric Carosella, and I developed him.
Eric and I agreed that I would only do this role if we gave Sunny an honest heart. Though it’s a short film, I wanted to provide the audience with somehow a sense of his past and history. I think we successfully did that. We are currently developing “Sunny the Heat” for a series pitch. I hope that we can give this character some time and space to unfold. I think Sunny is cooler than anyone realizes!
VENTS: “Sunny” is bringing you a lot of luck on the film festival circuit — have you considered taking him to Vegas?
STEPHEN: Hmmm. I haven’t thought about that. Let’s see; a wise old guy shows you the ropes in Vegas. “Sunny the Tour.” Old Vegas as seen through the eyes of SUNNY THE HEAT! It could work!!
Or maybe Sunny could have his show with many showgirls and winds up in a thong and a feather showgirl outfit at the end of the show. Well, that’s not so far-fetched considering that my first feature film was Homo Heights, where I played a mafia boss drag queen with Quentin Crisp and Lea DeLaria. So maybe I’m coming full circle as an actor? You never know. As I said, sunny is more remarkable than we think.
VENTS: What’s next for both of you?
STEPHEN: I think Sunny will become a series on Netflix. I feel very comfortable in Sunny’s skin, and I think it would be a great honor to facilitate this fascinating, lovable, but slightly scary character. I believe that Sunny can get to the top again. I think he has one more hurrah in him.
For me, I want to continue acting, singing, making people laugh, and teaching young people how to communicate with an audience and develop their skills. People talk about making it in show business. I’m not sure what “it” is now because I believe it changes as we evolve. I have worked since I was 15 years old, doing what I think I do best.
However, unlike Sunny, I have changed, evolved, and embraced the different “types” that we naturally move through. I think that is “it,” Do what you love, and you will never work a day.
Whether it’s TV, film, or Broadway…. I’m ready.
VENTS: Last question — where are the bodies buried?
STEPHEN: Well, whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But, since Sunny the Heat takes place in South Philadelphia, I can tell you.
I buried the body of excess on Long Island, New York, in 1993
I buried the body of self-doubt behind the Paris casino in Las Vegas 2002
I buried the body, caring what other people think in 2012 in Debbie Reynolds’s backyard in Beverly Hills.
I buried the body of fear of failure in Melbourne Australia 2020
Having let things go and embracing the here, and the now gives me great excitement in just being in the moment appreciating everything that comes my way. I feel that every day is Halloween. Sometimes I’m an ex-wise guy, sometimes I’m an English Butler (upcoming BET movie a Rich Christmas), sometimes I’m a kind-hearted dad.
….. Life is but a dream.