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I Light Up My Life: The Mark Sam Celebrity Autobiography (Fringe Festival 2011)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on August 14, 2011

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Oh, you’ll love walking into the theatre at Dixon Place to watch I Light Up My Life: The Mark Sam Celebrity Autobiography – Mark Sam Rosenthal’s (Celebrity!) solo show.  The music is cranking with such anthems as The Pussycat Dolls “When I Grow Up”, Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and the walls are glowing with projections of  Mark in his candid, semi (one assumes) nude “oops, you caught me being cute!” poses.  You’ll just love walking in, almost as much as Mark Sam Rosenthal himself does.

When he does arrive it’s to some German pop that threatens to overtake the room – until Mark gets nice and comfy in his seat to start reading his “preemptive celebrity autobiography”.  Then, once he’s settled in, NOTHING can overtake the room the way he can.  With his charming delivery, his mastery at knowing how to deliver a story, and his lilting Louisiana accent, this guy has you at “No pictures please!” as he vogues on the projected red carpet.

Mark Sam Rosenthal (photo by Evan Schwartz)

Rosenthal’s story begins in an almost idyllic fashion as he recounts how he began his life as a sweet southern boy, being reared in a world which included the pageantry of the Mardi Gras royal court (a court over which his mother actually presided one year – proudly).

He then progresses through his school years, where he fell in love with the theatre for the first time … right around the time he fell in love with a boy for the first time as well.

Not every chosen path was stellar, nor was it untarnished; a brief stint in porn (!) is recounted quite candidly and all without losing that Baton Rouge charm and graciousness.  When he talks about greeting his fellow orgy cast members in the warehouse he might as well be talking about the time he served tea sandwiches to a group of schoolgirls, so genteel and cordial is the manner in which he tells the details of the story.  The result is pure comic brilliance.

Rosenthal’s stories run the gamut from his love of karaoke (Yes, I was “that guy”) to his hugely successful career in commercials (FIVE! So far!) some of which have even gone beyond regional.  And let’s not forget the appearance on Cash Cab!

But so what if he’s had his hard knocks on the climb to fame?  It makes the view from the top all the sweeter.

As far as the requisite celebrity secret-spilling, Rosenthal opens his family’s closet and touches upon the difficulty coming to grips with a father who had a hidden lifestyle and died of a disease which still carries a stigma …  especially when it befalls a seemingly straight man with a wife and children.

Solo shows often come off as self-serving (even when they’re supposed to) and can often badly miss the target.  There is no threat of that here.  Rosenthal is engaging, enjoyable and winning to watch, and under Todd Parmley’s quick-paced and tight direction this show zings like crazy.  Parmley’s multi-media design which accompanies the piece is like the crown on top of the already gorgeous pageant winner – a glittering adornment which offsets and counterbalances the main presentation and brings it to new heights of perfection.

Towards the end of I Light Up My Life, Rosenthal (needlessly) ponders “What if I’m ordinary?”  Mark Sam – you may be a lot of things, but “ordinary” is not one of them.


I Light Up My Life: The Mark Sam Celebrity Autobiography
Star: Mark Sam Rosenthal
Writer: Mark Sam Rosenthal
Director: Todd Parmley
1h 20m
VENUE #5: Dixon Place
Wed 17 @ 9:15 Wed 24 @ 4 Fri 26 @ 7

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

AntonioNo Gravatar August 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Great write up! how fun.

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