Calgary Fringe Festival Show Reviewed Here: Burnt at the Steak
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, there aren’t a lot shows that would normally be classified as musicals as the Calgary Fringe Festival this year, much to my chagrin. In fact, the only one that uses the “Musical Theatre” descriptor in the programme is 2 to Django, which, from what I’ve heard, is mostly music (albeit great music) with a some story-telling and not much theatre. The Ballad of Herbie Cox, The Bro Show and Charlie: A Hockey Story use the “Music” description, but in all three cases, music plays a minor, although often important role. Other shows use the term cabaret, which to my mind would normally include music, but in this case, usually doesn’t.
There are two other shows that haven’t labelled themselves as musical theatre and probably should: Guys in Disguise Classic – The Silver Anniversary Edition (or at least I assume it’s a musical cabaret – if I am going to see guys in drag portraying musical icons like Julie Andrews, Reba McIntyre, Annie Lennox and Cher, they’d darn well better be singing – I plan to see that tomorrow), and Burnt at the Steak (reviewed below).
Burnt at the Steak (Festival Hall)
I know the term “tour-de-force” is often overused in theatre reviews, but New York’s Carolann Valentino is one performer that really warrants it. She’s what they call in the musical theatre business a triple-threat (she sings – and boy, can she sing – she acts, she dances). Her one-woman show Burnt at the Steak (she does call it a musical in her flyers, by the way) hits all the high notes as she tells the story of life in a high-end New York steakhouse and her hopes and dreams of hitting the big time on Broadway, on the urging of her psychic (or was that psychotic?) Italian-American mother.
Carolann literally comes out swinging (with a couple of balls on a string as big as her home state of Texas) and completely inhabits the 18 characters who make up the show, including her overbearing boss, her demanding and sexually provocative clients, and her spacy hair-swinging receptionist. She’s a very intense performer with great facial expressions. In fact, her quick character changes are almost downright creepy, in a multiple-personality kind of way. Carolann stares you in the eyes in a way that tells you she’s in charge here – definitely a force to be reckoned with – but you also get to see a little bit of her on vulnerability when she plays herself.
She mixes it up with lots of top-notch singing – a combination of familiar songs, known melodies with her own lyrics (instructing clients how they should order their meat – pink of course – to the tune of Do-Re-Mi, for example) and her original songs. And just as every good restaurant serves something for everyone, she also throws in a bit of improv for good measure. I even got a chance to get on stage myself when my shy neighbour chose not to do so, thus proving that table-setting and napkin-folding are not my forte (as if I didn’t know). I thought the audience-participation bits were a little weak, but still a lot of fun, especially for the men. This show has gotten great reviews prior to coming to Calgary (e.g. Best of Fest in Boulder, Colorado) and is doing well here too. Carolann received the first standing ovation I’ve seen at the Fringe so far, one that was well-deserved, as far as I was concerned.
The Calgary Fringe Festival runs from August 3 to August 11. Tickets are $10-$15 per show plus your $5 Fringe button and most shows are about an hour long. For schedules and online tickets (well worth it for popular shows), go to Calgary Fringe Festival. If you want to see what I’m going to or find people to go with, check out the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group.