Mario Cantone

| June 23, 2017

Mario Cantone

Café Carlyle, NYC, June 20, 2017.

Reviewed By Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Mario Cantone
Photo: David Andrako

Mario Cantone swept onto the Café Carlyle stage and asked, “Are you sure you booked the right person?”

He answered his own question, belting the Dame Shirley Bassey hit, “The Greatest Performance of My Life” (Oscar Anderel/Sandro; English lyrics by Robert Allen), and then he was off. He captured the well-dressed, urbane audience and gave them their considerable money’s worth of laughs. Some of his patter was printable, some not, expletives explode for 90 minutes, and every utterance ended with a verbal punctuation mark and then he’s off with another observation. This was not your usual night at the swank Café Carlyle.

He shared some of his resentments, and Cantone resents in a big way. “I hate the House Whores of New Jersey! And they’re All Italian!” He went off on Bruce Jenner, the Kardasians (“Kim, Khloe, Kholera, and Klamydia” got a big laugh), the President (an “orange Mallomar”). Devotees of Dancing with the Stars loved his take-offs on the judges—Len (“the English one”) and Bruno (“the loquatious gay Italian”). Laughs came over me so hard and fast that it was hard to stop in time to hear the next remark.

For the handful of songs, Cantone was accompanied by a first-class trio. Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell on piano led the group, including Damien Bassman on drums, and guitarist Craig Magnano (who seemed to have as much fun listening to Cantone’s patter as the audience did). Cantone’s selections sometimes referred to his patter, other times emphasized what he is all about, like the fervent “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” by Al Hoffman, Walter Kent, and Mann Curtis. He had a hand in this arrangement, as well as joining husband Jerry Dixon to arrange an off-beat Peggy Lee musical musing of “Is That All There Is?” (Leiber & Stoller; additional lyrics by Cantone) with a wispy ending from “Fever.”

Cantone ginned up spoofs with imitations, like Mae West commenting on Connie Francis’ “Looking for Love” (Stan Winston). Dixon created a song for Cantone to sing Bruce Springsteen-style, “Pam” (think of Pam non-stick spray). Dixon also wrote “Rewrite History” for his husband’s familiar Liza Minnelli segment. “Judy Garland” was added to join Liza singing, “When You’re Smiling (the Whole World Smiles with You)” (Mark Fisher/Joe Goodwin/Larry Shay), Mama and Liza trading lines and both on target.

Yes, the Café Carlyle booked exactly the right person for laughs and entertainment. Mario Cantone is sui generis, giving his all with an earnest energy, proudly gay, Italian, outrageous, loud, vulgar—and terrific.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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