Three years ago I lost my friend Rick Pessagno. I miss him terribly. We were really good friends with a strong connection who met in 1997 on the first National Tour of CHICAGO. There was something special there. I was very young and eager to find mentors in the industry. I found one in Rick. He was older than I and I respected the personal and professional journey he'd experienced in his career. We just understood each other. Our relationship was great. We supported each other without question and we learned from one another and always valued our time together. Rick was quite a special man. An angel really.
I've wanted to share this video for some time now. Rick and I were collaborators on many projects. If I was working on something I would call him in hopes that he'd want to be my right hand. He would always say "I'm in" and off we'd go.
We built several projects together including my Norwegian Cruise Line Shows THE LOOK OF LOVE and WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW, and many of my solo performances including ONCE IN A LIFETIME at the Smith Center and my Symphonic solo debut CELEBRATING SAMMY with the Buffalo Philharmonic. At the time of his passing, we were building a project called RENEGADES, a sports hero show starring Terrell Owens, Jimmy King, Jose Canseco and Jim McMahon in Cleopatra's Barge at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. We had several other projects in the works and we were really finding our collaborative stride as working partners. In the video, we are working on a show I produced (EnJoY! Productions) and starred in called SHAKIN' - CLASSIC VEGAS RE-MIXED w/A TWIST. It was choreographed by Gerry McIntyre and Rick served as Associate Director. Over the years he became my "eyes and ears" for my performances and projects. He would never let me get away with mediocre. He lifted me up and gave me the courage to be myself onstage. Especially when I was scared out of my wits. Rick felt the stage was a sacred space. Wasting the time given on any stage was a big no-no and he was not afraid to let you know it. If you don't want to work, really work, don't waste the stage. I agree. In other words, we worked really hard to produce authentic, truly entertaining and inspired projects together.
Our goal with SHAKIN' was to bring back the singer-dancer-actor-entertainer to the Las Vegas Strip. We wanted to create a high energy non-stop show that embodied all of the aspects of "entertainment" that we love. What if we could have a show that infused the brilliance of Sammy Davis, Jr. combined elements of a male Liza Minelli or Lola Falana (Hehe), the comedy prowess of Flip Wilson, the raw genius of Redd Foxx, the hilarity of Carol Burnett, and every variety TV show of the late 6o's, the 70's and early 80's? Oh, and add a band and some dancers too! What would happen? Well...SHAKIN' happened. It was a magical time and I am so happy to have had the chance to work with Rick on the show. His creative input added s much to the show.
Rick was very good at producing "moments". I loved his perspective and expertise. He would break down a number until it was right and he would always incorporate some Rick Pessagno style into the number. It drives me crazy that he left all of us so soon. We were just beginning to find our rhythm as collaborators. I can only imagine what we'd be working on now. Well, before the pandemic had hit at least but who knows?!!
This rehearsal video shows Rick doing his thing. He'd suggested a stop-time moment in the opening number. An homage to Bob Fosse. The idea was to create an introduction in its interior that wouldn't require the music, dance and energy to stop. Here, Claudia Mitria, Sarah Storey, Amanda Nowak, Sarah Short and I try out the opening number including Rick's fantastic "Fosse-esque" insert for the first time. Hope you don't mind ladies. Watching his vision come to life is extraordinary. His face tries not to get excited in the beginning but when he knows it's good he can't disguise it. Take a look.
Man, I miss you Rick.