I don’t like to make sweeping generalizations, but I truly believe that the moment that you see Patricia Zentilli perform onstage, regardless of everything, you will fall in absolute love with her. That is exactly what I watched happen in the Tank House Theatre as Zentilli performed her cabaret The Shopping Cart of Love with pianist extraordinaire, Patti Loach as part of the Canwest Cabaret Festival, which has taken over the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until Sunday November 1st (60 concerts in 5 venues. All tickets $20.00 each).
A highly accomplished musical theatre performer and a consummate actor of both stage and screen, the cabaret genre suits Patricia Zentilli with particular perfection because she not only sings everything with unaffected passion straight from her soul, but she also has a delightfully warm personality and the stories that weave her songs together are the perfect mixture of blithe humor and human heart. The Shopping Cart of Love began with Dar Williams’ “The Babysitter’s Here”, a song in which Zentilli effortlessly becomes the most endearing, innocent and exuberant of eight year olds singing warmly about the teenager that she idolizes. This song is a beautiful testament to the big, unconditional love of a child and the way they empathize with such an earnest desire for all that is wrong to be righted happily ever after. She then sang a beautiful rendition of “Ben,” the Don Black and Walter Scharf song made famous by a very young Michael Jackson, which she dedicated to her best friend, Tamara, who became a kindred spirit for the young Peruvian hat and poncho-wearing Zentilli.
Zentilli then burst out with Jason Robert Brown’s “Climbing Uphill” from The Last Five Years, and brought down the house with her ‘belting as high as she can.’ This is the third of Kathy’s songs that I have heard Zentilli sing and I am resolute in my opinion that, having played the role at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, Toronto audiences need to be given the opportunity to see her incredible performance in its entirety. She is the quintessential Kathy down to even the most delicate nuance. She then showed off how gracefully her voice soars when songs turn jazzy in her rendition of “the Bear, the Tiger and the Hamster” from Closer Than Ever by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire.
What I really enjoy about Patricia Zentilli and Patti Loach cabarets is that Loach and Zentilli always find these unknown little gems of songs to sing that are rarely performed by artists in Toronto. From Craig Carnelia’s “Just a Housewife” and Rosabella and Dina Gregory’s “India, China,” two songs that compel you to listen to the lyrics and to really reflect on your lifestyle and your preconceptions, while still being beautifully poetic and utterly captivating, to the marathon “Shopping Cart of Love” which is a chick flick encapsulated brilliantly into a single number by Christine Lavin, Loach and Zentilli always introduce their audience to new songwriters as they sit on the edge of what is hot, quirky and beautiful.
Patricia Zentilli and Patti Loach are a brilliant combination of talent and charm, and when they make music together, at times accompanied with the gorgeous trumpet playing of John Loach, the music propels them and buoys them up almost to the point of flying away. The amount of love and passion on the Tank House stage could fill every shopping cart at the grocery store, no doubt. They finished the show with a hauntingly emotional rendition of Jim Cuddy’s “Pull Me Through” which tugged at the heartstrings and swept through the room, wrapping the audience up tightly in its beauty. The next time you want something warm, something sweet, and something that will make you feel both jubilant and joyful, I would strongly recommend that you put a Cabaret by Patricia Zentilli and Patti Loach in your shopping cart of life. If you simply can’t wait, you should pick up a copy of their CD Pull Me Through, which is available in the atrium of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts ($20.00) for the duration of the Canwest Cabaret Festival, and it is also available online at iTunes.
Get ready to fall in love.