Powerhouse Brenda Braxton returned to 54 Below with "Stars Tonight featuring Mario Cantone" on July 9th. The evening was a night of laughs, talent, stories and even an unexpected auction.
Ms. Braxton steps onto the stage, looking sleek and elegant. She opened with "Baby I'm A Star" by Prince and invited her co-host for the evening Allison Williams Foster to join her. She welcomes the audience and introduces the evening as "Cab Talk"--a Cabaret Talk show like that of Johnny Carson. The guest for this evening is the comedian extraordinaire Mario Cantone. She tells us that the special guest is on his way in an Uber from Boston because flights were canceled! Now, this is how the show goes on!
Brenda Braxton performs a short set offering renditions of "Better than Anything" and a dedication to her perfect mate, "Julio," and a few more. She brings up more special guests, Mary Mossberg and Babs Winn, from her latest musical, Cougar. Then the talk show portion of the evening began. Ms. Braxton has an electric charm that connects organically with the audience. At one moment, an audience member asked if she had merch. She replied that she did not have merch and then the stage turned into an auction block in a matter of seconds. She managed to auction off the cup she was drinking from and her book for $500! She donated the proceeds to 54 Below since they recently became a non-profit organization. The audience had a great time getting the opportunity to interact with Ms. Braxton. One attendee shouted, "this is the best show I've been to."
The energy continued when Mario Cantone arrived. He looked dapper in his summer suit. Cantone took the stage like a cannonball- bursting with energy and fire! Brenda Braxton asked him questions about his career and life. Their back-and-forth banter is hilarious. He tells us about his mother being a bookie and his dad being arrested but not doing much time. He tells these stories the way only Mario Cantone can tell, funny, lively and with a hint of sass. He also does brief impressions of Julia Child and Paul Lynde. He then shows his singing talent with a dynamic rendition of "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die." The show concludes with all the artists returning to the stage to sing "Brand New Day."
Brenda Braxton's stellar band, with Skip Ward, David Silliman, Mike Rosengarten and James Woods as the pianist and Musical Director, added to the excitement and spontaneity of the evening.
"Stars Tonight" debuted its official start tonight and it was a hit! Brenda Braxton will be presenting "Stars Tonight" monthly. Make sure to catch it next month! It will not disappoint!
"Brenda Braxton: Stars Tonight Featuring Mario Cantone"
Performed by Brenda Braxton and Mario Cantone
Music direction by Tracy Stark
July 9, 2023
254 W 54th St. Cellar, NYC 10019
Yani Perez, M.F.A, is a poet, playwright, translator, and educator. Her plays have been presented in various theaters in the United States such as La Mama and Yale University as well as internationally in Bogotá, Colombia. She works at IATI Theater, one of the oldest Latinx theaters in NYC. She is currently working on translations of Latinx artists in hopes of introducing them to English-speaking audiences.