Mario’s Xmas clip echoed in Manly
COMEDIAN Phil Scott has been enamoured of Mario Lanza since a very young age.
It was the Metro cinema in Manly, NSW, that would introduce the young Phil to the world of entertainment.
A world that would one day become his life.
“The Metro only showed MGM films, and at Christmas the main feature was preceded by what today we would call a clip,” he reminisced.
“It starred one of MGM’s true superstars of the 1950s, an American tenor named Mario Lanza.”
But it wasn’t until many years later that Blake Bowden approached him to do a theatrical cabaret on his idol.
Since his youth Mr Scott has gone on to become a singer, actor, pianist, writer and comedian.
“We decided early on that Lanza’s life should be dramatised,” he said.
“With this kind of show, the thing to avoid is turning it into a lecture. To that end, while Blake plays Mario, I take on ten different characters, ranging from a fictitious New York singing teacher, to a US Army sergeant, through to Louis B. Mayer himself.
“The trickiest character I essay in this show is Mario’s Hollywood fitness trainer ... for obvious reasons.
“Namely, I am unfit for the role.
“To make up for the lack of female characters in the piece, we also decided to include a promising young operatic soprano. Relax, it’s not me. Fortunately, we find one sitting in the audience every night.
The death of a young Mario is clouded in rumour and suspicion, much like the death of another big name 50s superstar, Marilyn Monroe.
There were whispers that Mario’s death could have involved the Mafia, which 60 years later presented a problem for his contemporaries.
“We had two problems with this. One: it’s a downer when your main character dies at the end of a show,” he said.
“In the TV series ‘Smash’, concerning the making of a Broadway musical about Monroe, that’s the big hurdle they face. She dies. What else can you do? It happened!
“Our second problem was that the Mafia story has been thoroughly ridiculed by an international Mario Lanza Appreciation Society, which is still active.
“In fact, the man who heads the organisation lives in Melbourne. We have performed Mario in Sydney, Adelaide and now Port Douglas ... but not in Melbourne. “Even so, if Lanza’s biggest fan got wind of it, things could get ugly.
“Blake and I found a way to solve both these problems at once ... but you’ll have to see the show to find out how we do it.”
Blake Bowden and Phil Scott in Mario