2009 IS GETTIN’ OLD….CATCH-UP ON CABARET
If you’re a regular
So, strike up the band and have your two-drink minimum of a martini tiny (or not so tiny) catch-up on cabaret.
JANUARY’s big event for gorging on cabaret performers was the NIGHTLIFE AWARDS. No relation to the differently-spelled NiteLife Exchange website, except maybe my presence at both as I am one of judges choosing the winners in the cabaret category (stars of jazz and comedy are also honored). These awards are the brainchild of impresario/critic/writer/quipster Scott Siegel whose shows at The Town Hall at 123 West 43 Street are known for being talent-packed. (His current reason for sleep deprivation is a series of three Mondays, a festival for the summer. This Monday, July 20, presents the cream of the crop of musical theatre students strutting their big stuff and July 27 is the razzle-dazzle excitement of All Singin’, All Dancin’ with folks --and numbers-- from Broadway.) The awards show was a night (or nite) of wall to wall performances. What’s different about this awards show is that no acceptance speeches are allowed—performers are asked to just come out and demonstrate their talents that won them the award. It was the beginning of a very good year for the smash that is
Speaking of free events, all year long the free concerts at Barnes and Noble on Broadway and West 66 Street have continued all year. For example, one guy who took his turn in FEBRUARY was singer KEVIN DOZIER. Kevin is a singer whose sound and approach have grown on me since I first came across him last year. Looking back at many shows of cabaret, supposedly that “intimate” medium where too often I feel singers screaming at me in a small room, I appreciate more and more Kevin’s attention to a gentler, reflective approach making super-pretty sounds with his super-pretty voice and very attentive to the lyrics. Nowadays, he has combined forces with energetic, sometimes irreverent singer-songwriter MICHAEL HOLLAND. An odd couple? Maybe. We’ll see, when they meet up musically for an act called Something Shiny July 27 and august 4 at The Metropolitan Room. Meanwhile, Michael continues his long-term partnership plowing through the pop of the past with Karen Mack at the Duplex (their next dates for their Hole-a-matic are July 25 and August 1).
MARCH was one more chance to catch another monthly (or more often) event at that venue whose booking and booker, Thomas Honeck, are profiled in the current issue of Cabaret Scenes magazine. This dazzling and deliciously affy Duplex delight is Doyle—CAIT DOYLE with her cannily discombobulated “why-does-everything-happen-to-me?”-themed act, Hot Mess in Manhattan shows. Feisty, frazzled, funny and fabulous, she regularly adds new custom-tailored songs to her set and her zeal has lots of appeal. She comes highly recommended and highly energized--- she returns to The Duplex July 24, August 14 and 28. Audiences and other cabaret types agree and have noticed, too: she won the MAC Award for Female Debut. (The terrific Ben Cherry won for in the male category for MAC and was also performing in March, at Don’t Tell Mama).
As someone who is always on the lookout for new songs after hearing the same-old, same-old is so many shows and on so many CDs, I’d be an April fool if I didn’t remember the pleasure of hearing a whole crop of new songs in APRIL at the presentation of new songs that were MAC nominees at a songfest at Don’t tell Mama where many of them were sung by the aforementioned Cait the great, since a few were written for her show. The winner of the Song of the Year was “Come Home” by Mark Janas and Peter Napolitano (whose Algonquin Salon open mics at the Algonquin Hotel spill over into the hotel’s posh Oak Room on Thursdays this month, in addition to the ongoing Sunday nights). And JULIE REYBURN, whose sang and championed the song, returns to Feinstein’s at the Regency this Tuesday, July 21. (Actually, the big cabaret news these days is that Feinstein’s, over at
MAY brought one of the most sparkling talents of polish and panache to The Triad--- saluting dancers and entertainers of the past from George M. Cohan to Bobby Darin and Anthony Newley, with Gene Kelly “Singin’ in the Rain” in between: the exceptional JON PETERSON in Song Man, Dance Man. With more charm than a basket of newborn Easter chicks and the Easter Bunny, he hatched a show that IS show business and bursts with joy. And man oh man, can he dance! He’s remarkable, and makes you grin from ear to ear to cheer and cheer. The Triad would be crazy not to bring him back….and I am happy to report that they are indeed NOT crazy. Jon Peterson returns moments from now---Monday, July 20 as well as on August 24. You will be royally entertained.
JUNE was busting out all over with joy and Jenna. As the summer breezes blow, time is bouncing along like the bouncy, breezy Connie Francis tribute show wherein JENNA ESPOSITO has added her shine to this summer shimmer. Summer V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N is not a time for songs to spell tragic love affairs, so Jenna opted for summery sunshine rather than the who’s-sorry-for-herself-now weepier side of her chosen icon. Lightening things up and not milking every teardrop from the musical handkerchief with the droopiest, party-poopiest hits, there’s more than just mindless pop fluff wafting by. A couple of ballads show her real potential---growth evident. Multi-award-winning director Lennie Watts has done an impressive job to make her more focused and has shaped things, trimming excesses without clipping her wings totally. The enthusiasm remains. She’s done her homework, went to her subject’s show and spoke with her, and the musical arrangements pay their respects to the signature sounds of the more famous radio hits without aping them. At the helm is guitarist/bandleader Fortune Esposito, and with the stories about C.F.’s own controlling Father-Knows-Best father, they have some cute interplay and reactions. In the department of “Francis Dances,” Jenna refers to—and demonstrates-- the “Connie Wiggle” (which coincidentally bears a strong anthropological similarity to the Esposito Wriggle of the past). The show also represented further teamwork with Jean-
Certainly there are too many other shows of note to note, but here’s a pair as one example with connections from past to upcoming---