Ross Reports: Mark Pino is ready for the spotlight

Tue. September 1, 2015 11:06 AM by Ross Forman

mark pino

photo credit // mark pino

Mark Pino's first-ever solo show, Thursday, Sept. 17, at Davenport's

The spotlight is set to shine on Mark Pino, and he's quite content under the glare, though admittedly a bit nervous.

Pino, 37, who lives in Andersonville and works in event and television production, and also as a server/bartender at Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret, is having his first-ever solo show on Thursday night, Sept. 17 – at Davenport's, naturally.

"This show is a long time coming, and basically a life's work. I am beside myself with excitement," Pino said. "Producing my own solo cabaret show is something I have been wanting to do for years and it just never came together. I have loved singing and acting since I was young, and studied voice all through college. I've performed in musicals, plays, operas, (have) sung with bands and booked solo performances for countless events through the years, but never conceived a solo act, or concert, as it were. This is incredibly exciting for me. I could not be more proud or happy about this experience."

A few months ago Pino applied for a bartending/serving gig at Davenport's for some extra cash. He wanted to work somewhere that he might have the opportunity to sing – and he immediately hit it off with Deb Steward, the general manager of Davenport's, located in Wicker Park.

The show is called 'Some Other Me... ' because, as Pino said, "I love the fantastical idea that there (is an) alternate version of me that leads parallel lives to the one I'm living now, based on different choices I've made in life.

"It's the concept of the recent Broadway musical, If/Then, which starred one of my favorite musical performers, Idina Menzel, and quickly became one of my favorite Broadway musicals of all time. The most prominent of these 'other me's' is one that is a wildly successful recording artist, performing around the world and selling millions of albums, something I had dreamed of for as far back as I can remember. I decided that the best show I could produce would be one in which I could sing the songs I've always wanted to sing, from the artists who were my biggest musical influences. It's a very eclectic mix, including songs by Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Bette Midler, Idina Menzel and a few others. The songs will be interspersed with the stories of how I was introduced to or discovered these artists and their music. I've basically been rehearsing for this show my entire life."

Pino, who is engaged to Dan Churchill, will be joined that night at Davenport's by Alex Newkirk on the piano.

"I have done a lot of performing, but nothing quite like this," Pino admitted. "Cabaret is such a specific, intimate style of performance. It will require vulnerability and honesty to be able to connect with a smaller audience in a very intimate setting, but I think that is actually what I'm most excited about. I love being able to connect with an audience in that way."

The lighting and sound during Pino's show will be designed by the Tech Director of Davenport's, Erik Strebig. Julia Merchant books and schedules all of the performers at the venue and he's been aided by publicity photography from Max Woltman and graphic design work from Jeremiah Pointer.

"One of the first cabaret shows I ever saw in Chicago was at Davenport's and I have envisioned myself on that stage ever since. It's a great stage, with a beautiful grand piano and a state-of-the-art sound system. It's also one of the most renowned cabaret spaces in Chicago," Pino said.

Pino's parents are flying in from New Mexico to see the show.

Show reservations can be made at online. Tickets are $15, plus a 2 drink minimum per person. 21 and over only. The bar opens at 7 p.m., and the show will start at 8 p.m., and last about an hour.


Pino and about 40,000 of his closest friends will invade Chicago on Sunday, Oct. 11, for the running of the annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

He also ran the event in 2013.

"I am surprisingly excited to be going at this a second time around, (though) running a marathon has been one of the hardest things I have ever done," he said. "(The 2013 marathon) was one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my life. I have always been more creative and musical than athletic, so to be able to say that I have run a marathon, is something I am extraordinarily proud of."

Pino is running the marathon as part of the Team to End AIDS (T2), the official endurance-training program of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC).