Liza, I mean, Mario Cantone @ JFL
It’s not every day you get to see a real live New York Broadway star test out new material in a church basement in Montréal. If you missed Liza Minnelli at the Jazz Fest, you can see her now: in the form of out gay comedian Mario Cantone.
- Bear & Company brings Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew back to its all male roots!
- Liza Minnelli + Janelle Monáe coming to Montréal for Jazz Fest
- Rock of Ages blows up Broadway
Known to most card-carrying gays (and single straight women) as Charlotte’s wedding planner Anthony from the series (and film) Sex and the City, at 52 Mario Cantone is approaching that beloved and crotchety status known as the “veteran entertainer.” This tends to mean that he’s gone through thick and thin, ups and downs, and has survived by force of sheer talent and audience likability, in spite of coming out in the late 1990s, which even in New York can curtail a career or two. For his 4-night run at the Just for Laughs Festival, Cantone is serving his finely-honed impersonations, wickedly funny monologues and a handful of honest to goodness show tunes as a sneak-peak of his upcoming Broadway show.
His eponymous JFL show is a sequel to Cantone’s one-man Broadway show Laugh Whore, which was a smash hit in 2005. Backed up by a piano, guitars and drums, his new 2-hour show features a half dozen original songs and a lot of first-person stories and celebrity impressions. Although the two-hour show is rich in gay innuendo – you’ll love the cracks at Tim Tebow and Tom Cruise – the shining moments are when Cantone talks about his period hosting a cable TV children’s show called Steampipe Alley, and his impatience with LGBT teens around the bullying issue: “toughen the fuck up!” he shrieks. And then there’s his Liza…
I hesitate to describe how phenomenal Cantone’s Liza Minnelli impression is because, as the comic’s trademark phrase goes, “it is not to be believed.” Smartly, he saves it for the end, along with his killer Judy Garland – they perform a “duet” in the second half of the show so mesmerizing that it almost ceases to be comedy and verges into durational performance art. At certain points, his back-up band (including a very hunky J-P Levesque on drums) seem as much in awe of his impersonation skills as the audience was, which is good for them, since they don’t have a lot to do between the opening number and the Cantone-penned original “Gay in the Womb” half way in, which he sings with much Broadway gusto, his tenor voice in pitch-perfect high gear.
His ability to insert some angry New Yorker shrieking-sounds at just the right moment is another of his trademarks that makes Cantone a favourite for “roast” shows and other guest appearances. But it’s also his endearing side, always more effective when it comes from a clown, that sticks with you in the end, as in one story of a fateful trip to Jersey where Cantone’s homosexual-entertainer lust for approval is aroused by the possibility of Jersey Shore street cred. Unlike Liza, I think Mario might actually have a weakness for straight men…
Mario Cantone – Mario Cantone
Just for Laughs Festival
Wed July 25 – Sat July 28 @ the Gesù, 1200 Bleury
$42.65, Theatre box office: 514 861-4036