Six Degrees of Cabaret Separation

By ROB LESTER****All roads lead to and from Marilyn Maye in cabaret. Also pointing to Kati Neiheisel‘s strong showing catchable on the 21st and a spotlight on Spotlight on You, here we have six degrees of separation to prove the point:

While must-see marvelous Marilyn Maye (at right in ScoBar Entertainment/Iridium poster and in main photo with Michael Feinstein, but we’ll get to him later and you might want to get to them both for their in-person personal nights) mutters melodies, mulling over her song list before meandering over to the Iridium on Broadway and 51st Street in NYC for tonight’s 8:30 PM show (Saturday, December 9), with Tedd Firth (also seen in the lead photo) leading a trio, her other go-to music director, Billy Stritch is at Birdland for his own show at 6 PM.


Busy, busy Birdlander Billy may as well rent a room on the block this month to save a commute, since he’s also at the venue for the annual Swingin’ Birdland Christmas with playmates Klea Blackhurst and Jim Caruso.  And he’s certainly no stranger to Jim’s open mic weekly Cast Party on Mondays, where he often commands the keys.  But add to his appointment book duo dates there with Christine Ebersole.

Christine Ebersole, by no Stritch of the imagination, is idle when not working with Billy boy, as she’s booked on December 13 at Feinstein’s/54 Below.  

At that club bearing his name, Michael Feinstein comes in for a series of December nights there on 54th Street in the downstairs spaces next to the Roundabout.  And that’s a not-so-roundabout way of continuing the degrees of separation to say it’s not quite a coincidence that down the block and around the corner, in the Broadway Comedy Club non-underground space known as 53 Above, upbeat songstress Natasha Castillo is shining the Spotlight on You, on Friday, December 15 for the monthly open mic.  Her singing guest co-host is Deb Berman, longtime co-host herself of an open mic (the one that ran many a Sunday at the Metropolitan Room).  

Deb Berman has turned her attention lately to directing and worked wonders with a talent who blossomed under that open mic’s helpfully nurturing light, Kati Neiheisel. I caught her a few times, charting progress and growing confidence and stronger stage presence. Having caught the debut of the Berman-guided Neiheisel act at Don’t Tell Mama, Among the Stars, I was exponentially impressed.  Now serenely at ease on stage and her appealing singing voice and personality well presented, Kati Neiheisel returns to the venue on December 21.  The set list, featuring many a song about stars and a few selections from the Barbra Streisand-starring A Star Is Born, is smart and interesting.  Gregory Toroian’s musical direction is sterling.  I was happily lost in the stars and give this up-and-coming singing star-in-training an enthusiastic recommendation.   

Multi-tasking Deb not only balances the aforementioned task with a real estate career, too-rare singing spots (like at Urban Stages coming up at this same mid-December time in that theatre’s Winter Rhythms series), she works as coordinator for the master classes and private coachings singers clamor for with a giantess among cabaret entertainers: Miss Marilyn Maye.  

So, if my math is correct (it happens occasionally), that adds up to six degrees of separation from Marilyn Maye.  But who would ever want to be separated from Marilyn Maye.  “We’ll be back!” cried an enthused fan at Iridium last night when it was announced to the audience that Maye is back for a Saturday show of dazzle.