Stacy Sullivan, Mark Nadler, Gabrielle Stravelli, and Stearns Matthews Among Winners of 2015 MAC Awards

Stacy Sullivan, Mark Nadler, Gabrielle Stravelli, and Stearns Matthews Among Winners of 2015 MAC Awards

From the Oscars to the Tonys, the Grammys to Emmys, awards ceremonies are always a hit-or-miss situation. Either the event is absolutely excellent or ends with spectators saying, "Well, they'll do a better job with it next year." The 2015 MAC Awards, presented by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs, and held once again this year at BB King's on West 42nd Street, absolutely fell into the former category. It was a splendid affair (albeit it's usual 3-plus hours) that was expertly directed by MAC President Lennie Watts.

This year's glamorous host was the irrepressible Broadway/cabaret star Karen Mason (left in photo with Stacy Sullivan, below), who fronted a house band that comprised Barry Levitt at the piano, Tom Hubbard (himself an award winner for Outstanding Ensemble Instrumentalist) on bass, and Howard Gordon on percussion. The glittering array of personality presenters included Bruce Vilanch, Julie Budd, John McDaniel, Barb Jungr, KT Sullivan, and Jamie deRoy. Lifetime Achievement Awards were given to Baby Jane Dexter and Steve Ross, and the MAC Board of Directors Award was bestowed upon radio host David Kenney, for his weekly show Everything Old is New Again on WBAI-FM. And the annual Hanson Award was given to the sensational young veteran performer Meg Flather. The Ruth Kurtzman Award, which goes to the year's best "Benefit Show" or "Benefit Series," went to the Urban Stages Winter Rhythms Festival, produced by Frances Hill and Peter Napolitano. In addition, this year's "Trophy Girls" were two marvelous drag artistes, Doris Dear and Robin Kradles.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was that young Stearns Matthews, known for the last several seasons as one of cabaret's male up-and-comers, managed to snag two awards; his brilliant CD Spark won the LaMott Friedman Award for Outstanding Recording, and he was also gifted with Outstanding Male Vocalist. Gabrielle Stravelli, who recently earned a 2015 Bistro Award, won a MAC for Outstanding Female Vocalist. The MAC Award for Outstanding Major Artist went to Stacy Sullivan, while Mark Nadler grabbed the prize for Best Celebrity Artist. Other award-winners of note included Celia Berk for Outstanding New York Debut--Female; Kristoffer Lowe for Outstanding New York Debut--Male, and Ivan Farkas for Outstanding Musical Comedy Performance. The award for Outstanding Special Performance went to Thomas Honeck (performer) and Lisa Moss (director) for Dancing With Death, while the Reverend Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes took the prize for Outstanding Impersonation/Characterization/Drag Artist.

Stacy Sullivan, Mark Nadler, Gabrielle Stravelli, and Stearns Matthews Among Winners of 2015 MAC AwardsThis year's MAC Awards show featured a number of terrific performances, including the team of Ted Stafford and Lorinda Lisitza (who won the trophy for Outstanding Duo/Group) absolutely bringing the house down with their comical acoustic rendering of Lennon/McCartney's "When I'm Sixty-Four." Kathleen France and Dawn Derow (who took the award for Outstanding Revue for their show Revolution) produced a wonderful take on the Stephen Stills' classic "For What It's Worth." And the always-thrilling Natalie Douglas delivered a chilling version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" as the accompaniment to the "In Memoriam" section of the show, which honored such recently deceased individuals from the cabaret community such as songwriter Ervin Drake.

Another show highlight was the performance of student performers from Wingspan Arts, which receives financial grants from MAC to aid the tuition of the young participants in their Cabaret Troupe Workshops. After the group did a lovely job on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," this year's soloist was Frank Auletti, a senior from LaGuardia High School who enthralled the audience with superb vocals, and showed that he might be a future MAC Award winner.

Here's the lineup of the 2015 MAC Award winners:

FEMALE VOCALIST : Gabrielle Stravelli at the Metropolitan Room
MALE VOCALIST : Stearns Matthews, Sneek Peek, Spark
MAJOR ARTIST : Stacy Sullivan, On the Air: Songs for Marian McPartland
CELEBRITY ARTIST : Mark Nadler, Runnin' Wild--Songs and Scandals of the Roaring '20s
NEW YORK DEBUT - FEMALE : Celia Berk, You Can't Rush Spring
NEW YORK DEBUT - MALE : Kristoffer Lowe, Waiting for the Light to Shine
MUSICAL COMEDY PERFORMER : Ivan Farkas, Prisoner of Love
IMPERSONATION/CHARACTERIZATION/DRAG ARTIST : Rev. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes, Be The Love
DUO/GROUP : Ted Stafford and Lorinda Lisitza, This May Hurt a Bit
REVUE : Revolution, Kathleen France and Dawn Derow
RECURRING SERIES : Salon, Mark Janas, Founder, Artistic Director, Host; Tanya Moberly, Exec. Producer
SPECIAL PRODUCTION : Thomas Honeck, Dancing With Death; Lisa Moss, Producer
EMCEE - RECURRING SERIES/SPECIAL PRODUCTION : Tom Gamblin, MetroStar Challenge
ENSEMBLE INSTRUMENTALIST : Tom Hubbard
PIANO BAR INSTRUMENTALIST : Nate Buccieri, Don't Tell Mama, The Duplex
RESTAURANT/HOTEL LOUNGE INSTRUMENTALIST : Bill Zeffiro, La Mediterranée
PIANO BAR/RESTAURANT SINGING ENTERTAINER - FEMALE : Elaine Brier, Don't Tell Mama
PIANO BAR/RESTAURANT SINGING ENTERTAINER - MALE : Bobby Belfry, Brandy's
MUSICAL DIRECTOR : Tracy Stark
DIRECTOR : Eric Michael Gillett
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR : Jean-Pierre Perreaux
RECORDING (LaMott Friedman Award) : Stearns Matthews, Spark
SONG : "Simply" by Bruce Kimmel
COMEDY/NOVELTY SONG : "The Brit Song" by Amy Wolk, William TN Hall
SHOW OF THE YEAR : The 54 Below Sings Series, Phil Geoffrey Bond, Producer
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Baby Jane Dexter and Steve Ross
RUTH KURTZMAN AWARD (BENEFIT SHOW OR SERIES) : Urban Stages Winter Rhythms Festival, Frances Hill and Peter Napolitano, Producers
HANSON AWARD : Meg Flather
MAC BOARD OF DIRECTORS AWARD : David Kenney


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