The unique and celebrated stage actor and stand-up comic Mario Cantone makes his Café Carlyle debut June 20-23.
by Linda Amiel Burns
I have known and followed Mario Cantone’s career for over 30 years. When fellow graduates Mario and Sidney Myer were honored by Emerson College in Boston in the late 80s, I was there to applaud. It has been wonderful to watch the success over the years of this versatile actor/comedian and see him develop his unique style of frenetic rapid-fire delivery and insane energy. When I heard that Mario was going to make his Café Carlyle debut, I was a little concerned, as this is not the usual type of act at this posh venue and the first time that a comedian has been booked. However, I needn’t have worried because Mario Cantone is at the top of his game. He sings, talks about his life, does imitations, and the thrill is that you never know what he is going say or do next.
On opening night, the room was packed and Mario came on stage to thunderous applause. He opened with the song “The Greatest Performance of My Life” (words & music: Oscar Anderel and Sando; English words: Robert Allen; Arrangement: Tom Kitt & Mario Cantone) and was backed by a terrific trio led by music director on piano, Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Craig Magnano on guitar, Damien Bassman on drums. He has a strong singing voice but it is fun when he performs some of the other material as Peggy Lee in a spoof of “Is That All There Is?” (words & music: Leiber and Stoller; additional words: Mario Cantone) and Connie Francis in “Looking for Love” (words & music: Stan Winston). Mario is famous for his Liza Minelli imitation and performed “Rewrite History” as Liza (words & music: Jerry Dixon) and a duet with Judy Garland in “When You’re Smiling” (words & music: Mark Fisher).
The comedian was very much present as we heard Mario’s take on the Kardashians, Caitlin Jenner, reality shows, Trump, having children, the perils of flying, Turner Classic movies, and whatever seemed to come into his fertile and creative mind. When you are laughing at something he just said, Mario is on to the next thought, a riotous “stream of consciousness.” Many people know Mario from his role on Sex and the City, the Tony-nominated one-man show Laugh Whore, and his many appearances on ABC’s The View. He closed with “Make Your Own Kind of Music” with special lyrics and that is certainly something that Mario does. The audience clamored for an encore (which he mentioned he rarely does), and one of the highlights of the evening was when Mario sat quietly on a stool and calmly sang “The Hidden Side of Me” revealing several more facets of this ultra talented entertainer.
Mario Cantone at The Café Carlyle. June 20-23 at The Café Carlyle in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street at Madison Avenue). Café Carlyle Online or 212 744-1600.
Photos: Matt Gross