Carolann Valentino was an Italian raised in Texas, who then moved to New York to pursue a career in acting and ended up working in a high class steak house. Now she’s turned that experience into a musical.
Should you see it?
Burnt at the Steak is based on creator/performer Carolann Valentino’s true-life story about being an Italian growing up in Texas, and moving to New York where she (ironically?) gets a job in high class steak house, while working towards following her dreams of being a Broadway star.
Carolann Valentino is a one-woman powerhouse, to be sure. She owns herself, eighteen characters in total, and every inch of the stage as she acts, dances, and sings her way through a musical about her employment as manager in a high class steak house — dealing with self-entitled customers of all douchebagery, her staff who aren’t always up to snuff, an overbearing maitre’d who makes the main foil to her dreams, and her psychic Italian mother — all of whom are characters Valentino adopts during the show. And doing so with such an ease and distinction that you might not even fully realize until the final curtain call where she adopts each one in succession for a final goodbye.
Valentino also has powerhouse vocals and musical fans in particular will love her take on the Sound of Music’s “Do Re Mi” to the cooking temperature of steak. This was a song I would have loved to have seen gone longer to really pull in the audience sing-along, but since there’s already so much goodness filled into this hour, I understand why it wasn’t.
The message of the show, following your dreams, is perhaps a bit hokey and done, but it’s always worth hearing, especially when presented in a package as fun as Burnt at the Steak and by a performer as energetic and powerful as Carolann Valentino, who I got to get (very) up close and personal with in one of her numbers that included bringing three men on stage while… you know, I won’t spoil it. Partly because I couldn’t describe it succinctly and partly because you should just witness it. Suffice to say, it was something. Having been part of the show, I’m sort of reviewing myself now in a weird meta way, but nonetheless Burnt at the Steak is a wonderfully energetic and fun show to experience from either side of the stage.
Carolann Valentino is a star. She acts, she sings, she does impersonations like no one else – and she has the energy to perform a one woman musical in which she plays eighteen different characters. I must admit that I was skeptical when Valentino burst on stage in a cowboy hat and fringed vest, swinging around two balls of provolone cheese. I quickly realized the error of my ways once she launched into impressions of a large part of the steakhouse staff as well as some of their more difficult customers. And she sings, too!
The highlight for me was a duet between Valentino and the drunken businessman she attempts to fend off. The quick switch she is able to do between characters is impressive. Valentino has an infectious energy that definitely lends itself well to sing-alongs, like the take on “Do Re Mi” that you mentioned, Allan. All in all, Burnt at the Steak was a total joy, and I highly recommend it.
Allan is right: Carolann Valentino owns every inch of the stage 100% as the eighteen characters she so deftly portrays. The audience participation bit was wonderful and a highlight of the show for me as I watched my friend be embarrassed (and imagined Allan as well as my former boss being too, knowing they had been selected in earlier shows).
Despite these pleasantries, however, I didn’t love Burnt at the Steak. I found the musical parodies annoying (as a big Broadway fan and vegetarian supporter), the script a little too crude (though, to be fair, the show does come with a Mature rating that I stupidly overlooked), and the volume much too loud (this is the first Fringe show I’ve seen that’s been mic’ed).
My biggest problem though was the story. Or was it the main character? Supposedly Carolann is an aspiring actress while she manages the steakhouse but other than a few passing mentions of auditions partway through the show, it feels as though she’s quite content to be raking in the dough and working steady hours with her colourful cast of characters. When she decides to leave and follow her dream, it felt sudden to me. I didn’t get a sense of conflict or passion and I didn’t exactly care if she stayed or went.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good show but I would have preferred it with more original music, less crass sexuality, and a greater focus on the journey Carolann takes as she discovers what’s truly in her heart.
How did you enjoy Burnt at the Steak, what was your favourite song or moment? Join the discussion and let me know in the comments below.
For more information about Burnt at the Steak, including show times and how to buy advance tickets, visit the show page on OttawaFringe.com: http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/burnt-at-the-steak/