Entertainer splits time between Summerlin-area home and Atlantic City for show

Residents of The Lakes are seeing a new Stephen Sorrentino hitting the pavement for his daily run. The entertainer lost 60 pounds in the past seven months, most of it by changing his habits.

"It's a new me for my new show," he said.

Sorrentino stars in "Voices In My Head," a comedy and impressions show that has him spending much of his time in Atlantic City, N.J. It opened there at the Tropicana March 26 and is scheduled to run through June 22. For more information, visit evenstephenproductions.com.

He started running - walking at first - when he was performing in Europe this past summer and now runs two miles a day. Other changes include: no appetizers; cutting down on sugar; forgoing wine; and initiating portion control. The latter is key, he said. He eats about one-third of what he used to at each meal.

"I opened for Debbie Reynolds a lot," he said. "One time, she told me, 'You know, dear, you're going to run out of energy at that weight.' And she was right."

But that wasn't the pivotal moment. The epiphany came when he saw a group picture from an acting class and wondered why he wasn't included.

"I was the fat face in the middle, but I didn't recognize myself," he said. "I said, 'No, no, no' ... Life is too short, and show business is unforgiving."

Fellow performer Sara Moore, artistic director for Barbary Coast Amusements, said Sorrentino has "always been a powerhouse performer, at any weight. But since he is all at once a verbal, physical and musical comic who can literally 'morph' into other people, shedding some weight has only allowed him a bit more flexibility in movement."

"Voices In My Head" includes dancers, musicians and 70 costume changes. Sorrentino spent months working on the multimedia aspect of the show, securing sets, wardrobe and showgirls, and nailing down the material and pace of the show. He crammed the planning around his busy life.

On the weekend of March 10, for example, he was in Dallas to perform with its symphony orchestra and drew last-minute costume ideas backstage as the musicians warmed up.

"The 80-minute show is a culmination of all the stuff that I used to get yelled at for as a kid, only now I do it on stage, and people seem to like it," he said. "It's 180 different celebrity impressions, flute, sax, piano and guitar, prop comedy, stand-up comedy and a huge improvisational part, where I let the audience write the story."

Actually, the audience shouts out the story. He first asks where it takes place, and people call out their suggestions - their bathroom, in New Jersey, in a taxi. What is the story about? Maybe he gets a suggestion that it's a child's story and it involved a dog and a dancer.

"It gets so abstract, it's hilarious," he said, "and two people I've picked from the audience do sound effects as I tell the story ... Every night is different."

Using the audience for input is nothing new. His shows have been shaped by suggestions of audience members when he appeared at the Riviera in the late 1990s. The impromptu portion of the show puts the pressure on him to pull it all together, but he said he thrives on it. It's part of his training from The Second City. He studied with the late Martin de Maat ---- who directed the original in Chicago in the 1970s ---- seven days a week while in New York City one summer.

The show is dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He will divide his free time by flying back home to Las Vegas or going to his beach house on Fire Island, N.Y. His three dogs and longtime partner will remain here.

After the three-month contract, he will either extend it three months or produce one of his other 12 shows. In Hong Kong, he's producing a Michael Jackson tribute show. He also has a contract with three Costa ships. Another project is a show he's pitching called "Liar's Limo." It involves an impromptu question-and-answer session with tourists in a limo followed by a comedy show at the casino destination.

"I have a lot of irons in the fire right now," he said.

Sorrentino said he'd love to bring "Voices In My Head" to Las Vegas, but it's expensive to put on a show here, plus market it himself. Still, he said he couldn't complain.

"I've seen the world, and it's been a nice gift, but sometimes you just want to be on your own couch, watching 'Will & Grace,' " he said.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.