The Press Enterprise
BY CRAIG SHULTZ
May 07, 2013; 08:38 PM
Francesco Sorianello, who portrayed the role of Alessandro over 10 seasons of the Ramona Pageant between 1967 and 1981, died Monday, May 6.
Mr. Sorianello, 84, suffered a heart attack at his Woodland Hills home.
He is remembered for his booming voice and the athleticism he brought to the role of an Indian facing persecution in 1850s Southern California.
“In those days, there were no microphones. You had to have a very powerful presence, both physically and vocally,” Ramona Pageant Artistic Director Dennis Anderson said. “He was very physical, very athletic. This was an actor that took command of that space up there.”
“Ramona,” the state’s official outdoor play that completed its 90th anniversary season the day before Mr. Sorianello died, is performed each spring in a natural amphitheater in Hemet.
Recently retired Ramona Pageant historian Phil Brigandi said Mr. Sorianello’s presence went well beyond the bowl.
“He was not just good on stage, he was very good in the community,” Brigandi said. “He was open, gregarious and friendly. There’s more to that part than just the acting responsibilities.”
Anderson, who played Felipe alongside Mr. Sorianello’s Alessandro in 1970 and ’71, and Brigandi agreed that Mr. Sorianello was the last of the old-time Alessandros, whose performances had to be more dramatic in the days before wireless microphones. “Frank was a powerful presence,” Anderson said. “He had a great personality, a great sense of humor.”
Mr. Sorianello served as grand marshal of the Hemet Christmas Parade in December, which celebrated the 90th anniversary season of “Ramona.” He was the keynote speaker at the Ramona Pageant President’s Dinner in January, where past Ramonas and Alessandros were honored and this season’s cast was announced. “It makes us all feel better that we were able to honor him,” Anderson said.
Mr. Sorianello had been hoping to attend a performance of “Ramona” on Saturday, May 4, but had been suffering from the flu, Ramona Pageant Board President Lori Van Arsdale said.
Mr. Sorianello, who also was known as Frank Sorell and Frank Sorello, portrayed Alessandro from 1967 to 1971, 1975 to 1978 and in 1981.
He was an opera singer who appeared in a number of stage productions, mostly musicals. He appeared in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” with Debbie Reynolds in 1989.
He also performed a number of concerts, Anderson said.
According to the International Movie Data base, he co-starred in three episode of “The Wild Wild West” television shows in the late 1960s and appeared in some commercials.
Anderson said if there was a Mount Rushmore of “Ramona” performers, Mr. Sorianello certainly would be included, along with Maurice Jara, Dusty Bowen and Marian Carter. “Another legend has passed,” Anderson said.
SORELLO, Frank (Francesco J. Sorianello)Born: May 1, 1929, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Died: May 6, 2013, Woodland Hills, California, U.S.A.
Frank Sorello’s westerns – actor:
The Wild Wild West (TV) – 1966, 1967, 1969 (President Juarez, Juarez, Ambassador Ramirez)