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BWW Reviews: Carolann Valentino's BURNT AT THE STEAK is a Unique One-Woman Musical Comedy

It takes undeniable mettle to live one's dreams, especially when that dream is to be an actress in Broadway musicals. That inspiring combination of resolve, ambition, and guts is just what Carolann Valentino is made of, and she drives this point home in the Houston Premiere of her one-woman musical comedy BURNT AT THE STEAK. Portraying a menagerie of eclectic characters and with a ton of vivacious energy, Carolann Valentino, "The ItalIan Rose of Texas," commands the spotlight, makes us laugh, and shares her story.

With a pocket full of dreams, Carolann Valentino leaves her Italian family in Texas to chase her dreams of being a performer. Like many before her and after her, while waiting for her chance at stardom she works in the restaurant industry as a manager at a swanky Manhattan steakhouse. In her show, Carolann Valentino jumps from vignette to vignette and character to character with ease, introducing audiences to an unforgettable mix of the audacious clientele and employees at the elite restaurant. She skillfully creates vivid personages from trashy Jersey girls looking to score rich husbands to a particularly surly, tongue-wagging maître d'.

What sets Carolann Valentino's BURNT AT THE STEAK apart from other solo performer shows is her unique approach to telling her story. At times she seems to move through the episodes of her life at random and leaves the audience to piece together the story without much guidance. There is not necessarily a linear through plot that consistently occurs. Instead, the richly bizarre characters take precedence. Each one of these wacky personas has one thing in common; they all effectively block her from attending the auditions she has scheduled by misbehaving or requiring her assistance at the very moment she is supposed to be leaving. Over the course of her 75-minute production, the audience sees her heartbreak and devastation as she puts her dreams on hold time and time again because of her job.

Another unique attribute is the musical aspect. While her presentation of the story is sometimes muddled and confusing, all of her song and dance routines are engaging and hysterical. In one number, set to the tune of "Do-Re-Mi" from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, she teaches us the importance of and the proper way to convince patrons of the steakhouse to order their meats cooked rare, medium, or medium rare. Likewise, she leaves the audience rolling as a woman crooning to the melody of "Moon River" about her choice to not wear undergarments.

Even if the writing is awkward from time to time, Carolann Valentino's energy and passion for performing is indefatigable. She floods the stage with larger-than-life characters, keeping audiences engaged for the entire performance. In the end, she ties it all together with an inspirational take home message about living your dreams.

BURNT AT THE STEAK, presented by Theater LaB Houston, plays Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak Boulevard, Houston, 77007 now through November 24, 2013. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 5:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. For tickets and more information please visit or call (713) 868-7516.

For a preview of the show, check out the video below:

All photos courtesy of Theater LaB Houston.

Carolann Valentino.

Carolann Valentino.

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