This soprano is actually a Gotti. As she stands alongside her vocal coach, her impossibly blond hair cascading down her black-as-midnight knit top, Victoria Gotti sings the scales. The reality show star with the Mafia lineage is prepping for something even she finds unreal: a role in an off-Broadway musical.
"I remember when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, doing the school play and trying out for the talent show," Gotti recalls during a break in her rehearsal. "It was upsetting to me, because I was always an introverted kid, and I got up there and always bombed."
Gotti hopes things will be better in "We're Still Hot," in which she makes her professional acting debut on April 30. Gotti, stepping into a show that opened three months ago, plays one of four 50-something women reunited for their 35th high school reunion.
It's not exactly an age appropriate role for the youthful-looking 41-year-old mother of three, but it is a dream come true for the daughter of the late mob boss John Gotti.
"Growing up, I think, we would all like to be the next Tom Cruise or Michelle Pfeiffer," she says.
Instead, she married young and had three kids with ex-husband Carmine Agnello, currently behind bars on racketeering charges. Authorities say Agnello was a member of the Gambino crime family once headed by Victoria's father.
The tale of the elder Gotti's ascension to the top of the mob, followed by his racketeering conviction and death behind bars, is as familiar to mob-watchers as "The Godfather" saga. When the elder Gotti died in a federal prison three years ago, Victoria issued a statement hailing him as a "lion."
She was a best-selling author by then, although hardly a household name. That changed with last summer's debut of the reality show "Growing Up Gotti," a chronicle of Gotti's Long Island lifestyle that's introduced her clan to the Nielsen families.
The program, which airs on A&E, turned sons John, Carmine and Frank into both instant teen idols and living proof of the power of hair gel. The success of the show, in an era where the line between celebrity and reality grows stranger by the second, produced the off-Broadway role for mom.
"The producer wanted me to make a fantasy list of things I'd want to do, and I said, `Audition for an off-Broadway show,'" Gotti says. "The producer came back and said they'd found four."
The tryouts were fodder for the TV gig, but the real thing will only be seen by patrons at the Theater at St. Luke's.
On this afternoon, Victoria works on her voice in the cramped space on West 46th Street with just a piano player and nary a cameraman in sight, performing a song titled "Whirligig Glands." With her hands on her hips, she studies a lyric sheet perched on a music stand and launches into song. "It's in there," she says after one pass through the tune. "It just needs to come up."
Although this marks her acting debut, Gotti's getting a bit of the star treatment. Word of her latest endeavor made the New York gossip columns, as did word that hers was one of the many phone numbers made public after Paris Hilton's cell phone was hacked.
The off-Broadway show's publicists were quick to trot her out for interviews, and the show's producer acknowledges Gotti's name recognition was a huge bonus.
"For us it was a no-brainer," said producer Tim Flaherty. "She expressed an interest in coming on board, she was surprisingly good in her audition and she continues to be great in rehearsals. She's really at the height of her fame."
Gotti says she's grown accustomed to the attention in recent years. And she's sure of one thing: Her performance won't provide any nuggets for "Saturday Night Live" or "The Daily Show."
"I'm not going to let anybody down, and I'm not going to let them poke fun at me either," she says resolutely. "So you know I'll be working every day into the wee hours."
It's unclear how long her off-Broadway run will last; Gotti says that decision is up to her, depending on how she feels about the whole thing.
Her break nearly over, Gotti readies herself for another run-through of the song. And before going back to rehearsal, she confesses that opening night might prove a bit more difficult than anticipated.
"I think about it, and I start to get the shakes," she says. "I don't know how I'm going to do it. I'm nervous. People don't believe it, but I'm shy."