The Mod Couple :: Mario Cantone and Jerry Dixon at Feinstein's

  • by Jim Gladstone
  • Sunday May 28, 2017
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Jerry Dixon and Mario Cantone
Jerry Dixon and Mario Cantone

June's abloom with gaiety at Feinstein's at the Nikko, where the calendar is studded with bookings for glamorous Pride Month nights on the town.

Our town's swankiest jewel box cabaret will welcome Ben Rimalower's hit off-Broadway comedy, Patti Issues ­- about his obsession-turned-friendship with La Lupone­ - on June 9 and 10; Trump confidante Katya Smirnoff-Skyy on the 15th; sweet 'n' hunky former-Mormon crooner Spencer Day on the 16th and 17th; lafftastic non-lipstick lesbian Marga Gomez on the 21st; and Lorna Luft -youngest daughter from the pack of Gumm - with tales of Mama Garland and songs of Prides past, on the 23rd and 24th.

But at the top of the marquee, kicking it all off on June 2 and 3 with How Long Has This Been Going On? ­­- a singing, wisecracking celebration of coupledom - are the Stiller and Meara of modern marriage, the Steve and Eydie of the sodomite set: Mario Cantone and Jerry Dixon.

Cantone - most firmly embedded in pop cultural memory for playing wedding planner Anthony Marentino in "Sex and the City," and Dixon, a triple-threat New York actor ("If/Then," "Once On This Island"), director, and lyricist, have been together since 1990, and got married five years ago.

Dixon has created original musical numbers for Cantone to sing while impersonating Liza Minelli, Bruce Springsteen and others in his one-man solo shows. Laugh Whore won a Tony nomination in 2005 and was later presented as a Showtime special.

The couple acted together, under the direction of Cynthia Nixon, in the 2015 off-Broadway play "Steve," which the New York Times said "holds up a clear compassionate mirror to anyone who's been part of a post-passion long-term relationship."

But appearing onstage together as themselves is a new endeavor.

"This is only going to be the third and fourth time we've done the show," says Cantone of their Feinstein's engagement, explaining that their act grew out of a one-time show that Cantone emceed in New York featuring duets by straight Broadway couples. "I was going to be up there hosting and I thought, 'Well, what about me and my partner?' "

"So we did a bit where I called out from my seat," says Dixon, "and then came up on stage and we did a number."

That one-off was expanded into a full program, which the pair performed as part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook program.

There's an affectionate comic repartee between the partners that's as evident during a telephone interview from their apartment in New York as it is on stage. Cantone is the high strung Lucy to Dixon's indefatigable Desi.

"We didn't want the show to be a chronology of our relationship," says Cantone, assuring potential audiences that their act does not hew to the 'My life in love and showbiz' tropes trotted out by many young Broadway performers doing their first cabaret shows.

"It's more like having friends over and hanging out in our living room. We do talk about our first vacation together," says Dixon. "Which is a big deal. It can make or break you as a couple - "

"Shush! Shush!" Cantone interrupts. "I don't want you to give it away."

"We don't talk about our careers at all," Dixon steers the conversation in another direction. "We don't do songs from shows we've been in. It's more like having friends over to our living room. You've seen how we interact."

The pair duets on American songbook classics, including "Can't Help Lovin' that Man of Mine," "Hey Boy," and "River in the Rain."


"Stop it!" shrieks Cantone as Dixon describes their set list.

"Mario's favorite sport is complaining," says Dixon. You can practically hear his eyes rolling over the phone.

Immediately after their Feinstein's engagement, Dixon heads to Saint Louis for a lightning-paced month of rehearsal for "The Little Mermaid" (he plays King Triton) at St. Louis' Muny, the country's largest outdoor musical theater.

"You're lucky I didn't get the role of Ursula the Sea Witch," cackles Cantone, before quietly admitting that he misses Dixon when he acts and directs out of town.

"I have separation anxiety," Cantone says. "I don't like going away and I don't like him going away."

"He doesn't like when I go away," Dixon emphasizes.

"Thank you, Mister Echo!"

"I have a relationship with the Village Theater in Washington State," says Dixon, "So sometimes I'm out there for five weeks at a time."

"Do you know the TV show 'Investigation Discovery?' " asks Cantone. "It's the Pacific Northwest, where all those murders and disappearances happen."

"Every time I go out there, he's like, 'Be careful!" notes Dixon.

Both men are homebodies and try to spend the bulk of their time together in New York.

"Did you know he makes me breakfast every morning?" asks Cantone, implying that this makes him perhaps the luckiest man in the world.

"I like to sleep," says Cantone. "I'll stay in bed as long as I can. It's how I stay young."

"It's really brunch," notes Dixon, who said that he slips out of bed and goes upstairs to a loft space to binge watch TV in the early mornings. "At 11:30 or 12 I'll make him a frittata or something."

"Yesterday," Cantone coos campily, "He made me a frog-in-a-hole."

"Mario..."

"What?! I said you made me a frog-in-a-hole. You did!"

"But you know where you were going with that..."

The pair fondly recall working with Cantone's Sex and the City castmate Cynthia Nixon on "Steve."

"We walked to and from the theater together every day," says Dixon. "It was just fifteen minutes away. We called it 'walking to school.' "

"It was so much fun," says Cantone. "Our characters were so much different than us. And the dialogue was really rapidfire."

"I liked going to rehearsal," says Dixon, "Just to see Mario have to get up with his grumpy face at 9:30 in the morning. The character I played was a filthy, sexual pig - "

"He was a whore! And the way the characters interacted was so nasty. In rehearsals, I was thinking, 'Oh no, this is gonna be a stink bomb.' "

"Mario's character was rather nurturing," jabs Dixon, "Which is not really like him."

Beyond their cabaret act, are there any plays the couple would like to perform in together?

"I think it would be fun to do 'Love Letters,' " says Dixon.

"Really?!"

"You wouldn't have to memorize it. You read on stage."

"Meh!" blurts Cantone. "Go call Debra Winger."

Mario Cantone and Jerry Dixon perform 'How Long Has This Been Going On?' at Feinstein's at the Nikko June 2 at 8pm, and June 3 at 7pm and 10pm. $45-$85. $20 food/drink min. Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St. www.feinsteinsatthenikko.com