Had the pleasure of meeting Carolann Valentino at the opening night party of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe Festival a few days ago. She’s staying with some pals of mine in town, and I’d remembered reading about her one-woman Fringe show last year as I was touring across Canada. It was something that was high on my list, back when I’d been planning to do a cross-country Fringe trek of my own, but that wasn’t meant to be. But at least my path WAS meant to cross with Valentino’s…or rather, her path was crossing Ottawa, and that’s a good thing for Ottawa.
The show is called BURNT AT THE STEAK, Carolann’s true tale of moving out of Texas (where nobody really knew how to deal with an Italian anyhow) to New York, where she found herself managing a million-dollar 3-story steakhouse, and raking in the dough. The only problem was that dream niggling at her brain, dreams of being a performer and actor. But it’s tough to make that second callback when they need you to deal with the drunk at the second floor bar, or those weirdo Jersey girls stalking the richer patrons.
Part musical, with an array of original tunes belted out with Valentino’s signature gusto, STEAK is a pretty damn entertaining story of Carolann’s struggle to decide between a comfortable, great-paying but soul-crushing gig, and ditching it all to follow her dreams. She clearly has the talent to make the risk worthwhile, peppering the show with a dozen distinct and hilarious characters, from her psychic Italian Mother to her soft-spoken Texan chef at the steakhouse. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes goofy, and even a little bit inspirational, this is an impressive show. Valentino is a big personality, folks, and she easily makes the stage at Academic Hall feel like it isn’t big enough to contain her. There is a bit of a sound issue with the show, as the mic miss Valentino uses throughout can play merry Hell with your eardrums when she really lets a tune rip, but hopefully that’s just a techy issue that can be fine-tuned. All in all, a seriously fun show from a great talent. Peace, love and soul,