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Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Santino Fontana is every inch the nightclub star in his new solo show.

"This is actually my first time ever performing my own thing here at 54 Below." That was Santino Fontana on Monday night, immediately following his opening number. And if that is true, then Santino Fontana has been off somewhere doing a nightclub act; maybe it was in another city, maybe it was on a Broadway Cruise Ship, or maybe it was in his living room but Santino Fontana has been doing a club act somewhere. If this was Santino Fontana's first-ever time on a nightclub stage, then he is one of the best, most naturally gifted, best instinct-ed performers ever to set foot onto the stage of a small venue performance arena. And this is one of the best solo show debuts an audience member, Broadway fan, or cabaret journalist ever had the great good luck ever to see. Simply put: Fontana is Fabulous.

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

For his eponymous club act, Santino Fontana's is going old school - it's just him and marvelous Cody Owen Stine at the piano, a mic on a mic stand, and an amazing set list of songs. Now, typically, it goes against my mission statement to spoil something that might be of an in-real-time treat for an audience, but there is something about Mr. Fontana's show that I firmly believe might sway people into making a reservation, if they are on the fence - an aspect of the evening that makes it particularly fun. So, while I will avoid other spoilers, I will say that Santino Fontana has structured his show around a very cute, very fun, very engaging device: the drawing of the songs he will sing. There are certain numbers that are definitely planned (like his opening and closing songs) but the rest of the act is randomly chosen by the audience. There is a box full of numbers (1 through 20), a Magician's Assistant, and an audience of patrons chosen to select a number that corresponds with the songs on Santino's prepared set list. It is so much fun, this kind of build-a-concert concept, and it makes the audience a part of the action, which doubles down on the fun factor.

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Except that Santino Fontana already makes the audience a part of the action. The man is so welcoming, so gregarious, so outgoing that it is impossible to not become part of the action because you just feel like you are in his home, and it feels like he gives you permission to hang with him. He spends chunks of his stage time talking to the crowd, he is beyond funny (underline it: beyond funny), and he remembers names, so he comes back to the same patrons throughout the night, with repeated conversations steeped in hilarity. The whole thing is very reminiscent of a great Las Vegas entertainer, so much so that visions of a Bobby Darin musical starring Santino Fontana began dancing around in this writer's brain. Mr. Fontana is simply one of those people who was born to entertain, he's so good at it... and it isn't the acting (which we all know he can do, and then some) and it isn't the singing (although this is some world class vocal work he is doing), it's the general nature of being a nightclub entertainer, and this man has it, in abundance. He's got nightclub swagger. As rewarding as it has been, watching him create roles in plays all these years, seeing him talk, tell stories and sing as Santino Fontana is even more so.

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

There are audition stories, show business reminiscences, wardrobe nightmare tales, and very personal memories recounted with tenderness and a loving heart about his family, and the friends he calls family. There is laughter, more laugher, and even more laughter as Santino Fontana makes fun of himself, jokes jovially with everyone, and performs hilarious comedy numbers... or numbers he makes funny through his unique performance style. And the singing, oh, the singing. Santino Fontana has one of the most versatile, pliable, and beautiful voices you could ever sit and listen to for seventy-five minutes. Switching out genres and styles, his voice travels several different roads during his performances, sometimes sounding folky/poppy, sometimes doing the Broadway sound, and other times nearing an operatic quality, and whatever the genre is, he can do it. He sounds wonderful doing it. And then he layers in the acting. Each number is a fully realized story, told by a Master Storyteller. There simply isn't one thing wrong with the program.

Except...

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

When I review a show at 54 Below, they give me a set list, so I know what was sung and who wrote it. I saw the list of twenty-four songs for the Santino Fontana show. It is luscious (and none of it will be named, here, in order to preserve the element of surprise for future audiences). The thought of hearing the Tony Award recipient sing some of these songs is enough to make the mouth water. The fifteen compositions I did get to hear were, each and every one, marvelous, simply sublime. I am very happy to have been there for it. But there is a nagging knowledge about the Sondheim songs I didn't get to hear, or the Loesser tune with which I have been obsessed since High School that I didn't get to see performed, or the Bricusse and Newley anthem that is probably gold in Fontana's hands that I missed hearing. It's just heartbreaking not to get to hear them.

Unless...

I could go back for the subsequent performances - it is most definitely a possibility. It would certainly be worth it, and it would satisfy my need to finish the whole twenty-four song journey. In the meantime, the best this lover of fine live entertainment, this cabaret aficionado, can do is tell readers that this show is one of the good shows. And Santino Fontana is one of the special artists, which isn't news, but it bears repeating: he is special. If you have an opportunity to see him do his club act, whether in New York City, another city, a Broadway Cruise Ship, or his living room, take it. It's one heck of a great time with (apparently) one heck of a great guy.

Santino Fontana plays 54 Below again on November 18th and 20th at 7 pm. Secure reservations HERE.

THIS is the Santino Fontana Instagram page.

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Review: SANTINO FONTANA Rises High To The Occasion At 54 Below

Photos by Stephen Mosher; Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.


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