At 8 p.m. on Dec. 6, a lifetime dream will come true for Mario Cruz of Guttenberg: singing before a theater audience with a live orchestra. And though Cruz’s journey to the Promised Land has taken a lot of twists and turns, he’s certain he’s finally hit pay dirt.
Cruz, 61, was the winner of the annual “Sinatra Idol” contest sponsored by the City of Hoboken in June. Winning that competition was not easy – it was the culmination of a 20-year singing and entertaining effort.
Cruz thought that one of the prizes was performing in the Count Basie’s Theatre’s “Sinatra Tribute Gala: A Holiday Spectacular” in December. However, he found out later he had a final hurdle to jump to reach his goal: a rehearsal demo tape he had to submit to the production to get accepted to perform.
His submission of the Sinatra classic “The Way You Look Tonight” and “The Christmas Song” garnered him entry into the show that includes some of the best Frank Sinatra entertainers in the area, and in the country.
His notification came via email.
“Man, I felt like I had ‘graduated,’ ” Cruz said.
Moment is near
As the moment draws near for his much-sought after performance, Cruz is nothing but ecstatic.
“I’m really excited because this is what I really saw as the prize of the contest in June,” he said. “I’m excited and anxious. I can hardly wait.”
Family and friends have of course rallied behind him, and are also anxious to see their loved one live and in sync with a grand orchestra.
“I’m really excited because this is what I really saw as the prize of the contest in June.” – Mario Cruz
Rehearsals started Nov. 12 for Cruz, who teaches at the Zoni Language Center in West New York.
On Dec. 6, the group will have a dress rehearsal from 2 to 6 p.m., break for dinner, and then it’s show time.
When that moment comes, the El Salvadoran native says he will be ready without a doubt.
“I’ll rein in everything and perform the way I want,” Cruz said. “When you go to a show you always have those butterflies. Once I do the first song, the rest comes a little easier.”
Having his family close by will help his confidence.
“One of my sons, he’s very excited,” he said. “Joaquin, he’s the one that hangs with me through all this stuff.”
Hoping to build
Cruz says he hopes to build on his performance in Red Bank, just like he did in Hoboken in June.
“Deep in my heart, I hope there will be greater exposure than I had before,” he said. “There’s always the chance for someone to see you. I hope to make contacts with somebody if they like what I do. If the opportunity presents itself, I would really consider following up as a professional.”
Hoboken & Red Bank
Cruz’s finish at the Hoboken contest was almost a surprise, as winners have come from all across the United States and even Canada in the past, not right up the river from Hoboken in North Hudson. He bested a field of 15 to win the event.
The Count Basie Theatre is located at 99 Monmouth St., Red Bank. Tickets can be purchased for the Sinatra Tribute Gala by calling (732) 842-9000 or at the theater website. Prices range from $49.50 to $25.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.