Saturday, October 30, 2010

Get a slice of the ‘Cake Boss’

Oct 29, 2010 07:20PM

Story Image Buddy Valastro, star of "Cake Boss" on TLC.

WAUKEGAN — When Gary Zabinski, general manager of the Genesee Theatre, first heard about “Buddy Valastro: Cake Boss — The Bakin’ with the Boss Tour,” an interactive theater performance hosted by front man for TLCs wildly famous “Cake Boss” reality show, his first thought was: “Man, is there going to be cake all over my theater?”

But Zabinski’s second thought, and one that swayed him to book the show for Nov. 12, was how exciting it would be for someone like Valastro, so representative of modern day popular culture, to perform at the Genesee.

“Right now, Buddy Valastro is riding the crest of a wave of a leading reality show,” Zabinski said. “Young adults and teens are absolutely enthralled with him.”

Zabinski said the theater is selling 10 to 12 tickets per day to Valastro’s show, remarkably above average, he emphasized, for their stage, which is most often set for Broadway shows and musicals.

But Valastro’s show will be among the few interactive performances at Genesee — “Into the Wild” star Jack Hanna appeared in 2009 and notable chef Anthony Bourdain headlined there earlier this year. “Bourdain’s show, which was a speaking engagement, featured a question-and-answer session,” Zabinski said. “He was completely fascinating.”

Valastro, who said he was “100 percent involved in developing” his show, will also field audience questions. During the 17-city tour, Valastro has most often been asked which cake is his favorite. “My favorite cake is a life-size cake I made to resemble my wife, Lisa,” he said.

Valastro has been married to Lisa for nine years and lives with her in East Hanover, N.J. Their home is some 40 miles from Hoboken, where “Cake Boss” is filmed in Valastro’s family’s 100-year-old bakery, Carlo’s City Hall Bake Shop.

His parents, Bartolo, Sr. (Buddy is Bartolo, Jr.) and Mary, bought the bakery in 1964. Valastro and his family employ about 100 people in their 10,000-square-foot bakery, where confections such as homemade cannoli shells and cakes as unusual as a full-sized racing car awe customers.

Inevitably during the question-and-answer session for Valastro’s road show, someone asks him what he would do if he wasn’t a baker.

“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” the fourth-generation baker said. Valastro, 33, has been baking since he was 11 years old, when his Sicilian-born father, who died when Valastro was 17, taught him the family craft.

During his live show, Valastro invites 15 to 20 audience members on stage to learn some cake decorating techniques. He teaches participants how to decorate a wedding cake and coordinates “The Cupcake Challenge,” a design contest between “Cake Boss” enthusiasts.

“I like to poke fun at guys while they learn how to make roses and I laugh, watching them dance back to their seats, carrying the flowers to their wives,” Valastro chuckled. “‘Bakin’ With the Boss’ is a really good, clean family show — a great night out,” Valastro said.

He relishes the hand-shaking and autograph-signing session after the show. “I get to meet fans from all over the country,” he said. “It makes my work more worthwhile when someone tells me they’re on chemo and ‘Cake Boss’ made them laugh for the first time in months. I’m living the American Dream. The idea that you can achieve anything you want.”

While Valastro wants people to take laughter and happy feelings away from his show, Zabinski thinks audience members will be able to capture a close-up perspective of “Cake Boss:, the real person. “I hope people will come away with a more personalized idea of who Buddy is,” Zabinski said. “They will be able to get to see him as a person — 15 feet away from them.

“And maybe they’ll even get some cake in the face. That would be the ultimate interactive theater experience — to be slathered with frosting.”

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