February 8, 2019

Backstage at the Egyptian: Ron DeStefano of Shades of Buble

Interview with Ron DeStefano, Performer and Co-Owner/Creator of SHADES OF BUBLÉ

Conducted by Michaela Alcantar

Michaela: What got you into music?

Ron: My family is very musical: my mother played guitar since I was a toddler and led a church choir, and my sister can pretty much play any instrument she picks up. As far as my personal musical journey, I’ve been involved in music in some capacity since I was five years old.  That’s when piano lessons began, and they continued all throughout high school. I played piano for my church youth choir, and one day when the soloist caught sick they asked me to pinch-hit and sing; everyone including me was surprised at the tenor voice that came out! Around that time, I auditioned on a whim for the school musical (“The Wizard of Oz”), accidentally landed the plum role of The Scarecrow, and I was officially bitten by the theatre bug.  Piano lessons transformed into voice lessons, and things snowballed until I ended up landing a voice scholarship to Florida State University to pursue a career in the arts.

Michaela: Was music/performing always your career path?

Ron: It definitely was not.  For all the love of music in my family, it just wasn’t considered a career path. My family is full of ‘brainiacs,’ and I was following in the footsteps of my father, intending to become a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. I mentioned that I was accepted to college on a voice scholarship, but that was actually secondary to my main pursuit: a degree in chemistry. I got bachelors’ degrees in both subjects during the four years I was there, and it was on a quick summer theatre job before heading into graduate studies for a PhD that I met Melissa Giattino. She convinced me to put grad school on hold for a year, move to NYC to pursue Broadway, and the rest is history. I never got that PhD, but meeting Melissa was life-altering: she is the co-creator of Shades of Bublé as well as dozens of other creative collaborations we’ve embarked upon since that fateful summer.

Michaela: How did you all meet each other?

Ron: Shades of Bublé was cast through a series of very intensive New York City auditions. We hired a casting director to scour the ranks of performers to find dashing, talented men who could sing this very difficult music. It’s one thing to croon and sing pop like Bublé does, but our show has the added pressure of doing it in three-part harmony while dancing intricate choreography.  Not for the faint of heart! But we found a group of exceptionally talented individuals, all who bring their own personality to the show.

Michaela: What gave you the idea to form Shades of Bublé? / Why did you decide to form Shades of Bublé?

Ron: Melissa and I had been performing another show we created in 2010 entitled Two on Tap for about five years. It’s a duo song-and-tap-dance show, in the vein of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers… or Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.  We’d had a very successful time touring both on land and at sea, but we had aspirations to create a new show that capitalized on more current music… one that a larger demographic could enjoy and could really travel to some of the nation’s beautiful performing arts centers. Melissa originally came up with the idea of exploring the Bublé catalog, but I dismissed it, not knowing the breadth of music he’s both recorded and performed.  But a few months later when the idea came up again and she showed me all the various genres of music he’s sung (from big-band Sinatra covers to Motown to Rock to Contemporary Pop), I was sold on the idea of creating a fresh headliner variety show featuring all of these great tunes!

Michaela: How long have you been performing as a group?

Ron: The show debuted to a sold-out crowd in Northport, Long Island (NY) in April of 2015.  That’s when it all began!

Michaela: How has your experience as a band been so far?

Ron: Incredible.  Our group has really had the opportunity to see the world while singing this music. We were immediately grabbed by both performing arts centers AND the cruise lines, so we’ve toured to dozens of states and wonderful exotic places as well… Japan, Chile, Hong Kong, Argentina, Colombia, Taiwan, the Caribbean, China, and ANTARCTICA!

Michaela: What do you like most about being a tribute band?

Ron: The beauty of singing the music of a known artist is having people come to the show already being fans of the songs, even though we haven’t stepped onto the stage. Sometimes that’s a blessing and a curse, though, as Michael Bublé has some ardent fans who have definite ideas of how his songs should be performed. But what’s so nice about our show is, right from the start, we set out different expectations: we’re not trying to imitate Bublé, we’re celebrating his amazing career and elevating the music with three-part harmony.  So even the most die-hard fans are won over pretty quickly with the elegant, exciting, and exceptionally FUN show we’ve created!

Michaela: What were you feeling when you had your first sold-out in 2014-2015?

Ron: It was surreal, nerve-wracking, and totally wonderful. We had no idea what we had created, so as the audience poured in, we were pacing wondering if the audience would even enjoy what we were about to do.  But after the first number “Feeling Good” ended, the cheers that erupted from the show were deafening. And they didn’t stop until the end, when we received an amazing standing ovation! It’s all caught on video, and we watch it from time to time to relive the memories!

Michaela: What other places have you performed at/in?

Ron: More performing arts centers than we can count, sized from 350 seats to 3500 seats. And as we mentioned before, some wonderful luxury cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Oceania, and even a British line called P&O. We’re hoping to have our debut on Princess and Norwegian soon, as we bet we’d be a hit on those lines as well! And of course, we’re always looking to visit more of the US… we made our Montana debut a few months ago, and it was amazing to travel those highways and see those unending vistas!

Show at the Egyptian

Michaela: What do you think about the theatre?

Ron: We’ve actually only seen photos from the website, but it looks extraordinary; we can’t wait to see it in person.  From the ornate decorations we’ve seen online to the amazing staff and technical crew we’ve interacted with by phone and via email, it’s going to be a spectacular show!

Michaela: What are you looking forward to in your performance?

Ron: We love singing this music, from the big epic numbers like “Feeling Good,” “My Way,” and “Cry Me A River” to the gorgeous ballads like “Home,” “At This Moment,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”… that goes without saying. And we love being able to do what we love for a living… that’s nice, too.  But when it comes down to it, we always love the audience the most. The connection that’s made across the footlights during a show is just something that’s new and exciting every time it happens, and we can’t wait to meet all the people who come to experience what we’ve created.

Michaela: *What would you like the audience to know about the show?

Ron: It doesn’t matter if you’re a Bublé fan or you’ve never heard of him. It doesn’t matter if you like Sinatra and Bobby Darin, you’re fan of Van Morrison and Billy Vera, or you listen to adult contemporary pop. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 years old, 80 years old, or something in between.  If you’re a fan of good music and can get into a fun group of guys performing some of best songs of the last 100 years in a sometimes-thrilling, sometimes-beautiful, and always musically-satisfying way, we KNOW you’re going to have a great time at our show. See you at the theatre!