Kristin Chenoweth performs as she opens the 5th Just for Laughs gala at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts in Montreal, on Friday, July 26, 2013.
Photograph by: Peter McCabe, The Gazette
Broadway (Wicked) and TV (Glee) star Kristin Chenoweth hosted the Friday night early gala at 7 p.m. with guests Pete Correale, Zabruso, Nate Bargatze, Steve Patterson, Dave Hemstad and Ryan Hamilton. Here is a review of the gala from our panel of Gazette reviewers.
OVERALL: So Howdy Doody lookalike Ryan Hamilton slays the crowd with his skydiving antics, then host Kristin Chenoweth wraps the show with a heartfelt crooning of Smile — by Chuck Chaplin — and the laff-fest turns into a sob-fest. Few dry eyes in house. More music than chuckles this night: including Chenoweth, Zabruso and Steve Patterson's new hit single Don't Be An Arsehole.
HOST: Chenoweth sings like an angel, talks like Betty Boop, is four-foot-eleven and defintely going to heaven — well, before Bobby Slayton anyway. Hit notes so high I think she cracked my glasses. But she also cracked us up: "Thank-you Quebec for smoking and not drinking milk" — and thereby producing women almost as tiny as her.
HIGHLIGHTS: Seriously, all Hamilton has to do is walk out on stage, and he has the crowd convulsing with his aw-shucks, goober perma-grin: "I look more like a comedy club logo than a comedian." True, dat. Dave Hemstad on two per cent milk: "How much stronger is milk than booze that you can taste the extra one per cent." Hmmmm.
LOWLIGHT: Apart from seeing disco-dancing, t-shirt-tossing dude way too often over the last few years of galas, standup was a little spotty. ("But I am standing up," Chenoweth cooed.) Could have used the manic energy of Moshe Kasher and Bo Burnham.
OVERALL: It was musical. It was whimsical. It was, at times, hilariously funny ... although the numerous song-and-dance interludes sometimes overshadowed the actual comedy. But hey, the gala fit its high-spirited host.
HOST: First-timer Kristin Chenoweth admitted early on that "I sing high notes when I'm nervous." But there were few falsetto freakouts as the television and stage veteran joked, teased and swore her way into Montreal's heart. The audience loved her; all trash-talking, sweet-singing, four feet and 11 inches of her.
HIGHLIGHT: Ryan Hamilton on losing his contacts, his dignity and his bladder control while skydiving (I may or may not have wet my pants a bit, too). Dave Hemstad on white bread as a gateway drug — "It leads to mayonnaise. And two per cent milk."
LOWLIGHT: The best thing that happened to Steve Patterson was having his mic fail as he stepped on stage. It led to some great improv ("Maybe there's someone who works here who could help me?"). Sadly, once he got back on track the set was a letdown. Bankers are arse-holes. So are politicians. We get it.
OVERALL: "I'm a little worried about that one," a friend said about this first-time gala host. The audience did not share that fear. And Kristin Chenoweth, so sweet and profane and damn funny, raised everybody's game. Best gala yet. Maybe ever. Even the novelty music duo, Zabruso, was pretty spectacular.
HOST: Was it her performance of Popular from her Tony-nominated role in Wicked? Was it the cooter smash story? Was it her masterful choice of the Charlie Chaplin composition Smile ("though your heart is aching...") as a closer? Damn you Kristin Chenoweth for making me cry after laughing so hard. Brilliant. Wickedly brilliant.
HIGHLIGHTS: Ryan Hamilton was staggeringly good, starting with a revisiting of jokes about his outlandishly happy face and ending with a tale of skydiving misadventures. But the golfer-turned-comic Dave Hemstad snuck up on me with his take on aging, and I enjoyed Nate Bargatze for his distrust of snake-bite emergency response and Pete Correale on the politics of restaurant bread baskets.
LOWLIGHT: This is where we usually pick on the musical act, which this night was Zabruso, but the crowd loved them and I kinda did too.
More festival coverage on our #mtlfest page at montrealgazette.com/mtlfest
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