CABARET LIFE NYC: Listmania 2013, Part Deux! 'Best & Most' Honorable Mention Performances of the Year
Cabaret Reviews and Commentary by Stephen Hanks
Last December, after I posted my list of the Best Cabaret Performers of 2012, I followed up my original "listmania" with a column that served as a way to include some "honorable mentions," basically a recognition of other memorable shows and performances of songs that were striking, unique, and/or original that year. The column received a positive response so I thought I'd wheel it out again this year. So as the hours tick away on 2013 and we anticipate the coming of a new year, here is an addendum to the Best 2013 New York Cabaret Performers of the Year; a totally random list of 30 Honorable Mentions of the "Best" and "Most" in Cabaret for 2013 . . . mainly because I can and it's fun. Enjoy and Happy New Year!
Best Arrangement and Interpretation of a Stephen Sondheim Song: At 54 Below in October, Marquee Five's (photo right) stirring performance of "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park With George (arrangement by Musical Director Adam West Hemming) was a group vocal tour de force.
Best Banishment of An Audience Member: During her Ted & Lo Show with Ted Stafford at Don't Tell Mama on January 31, Lorinda Lisitza interrupted the duo's rendition of "Beast of Burden" so she could calmly excoriate two wasted females in the front row who were singing along loudly and not very well. The women cursed their way out of the room and then Lorinda continued with the chorus of the Rolling Stones' rocker.
Best CD Release Connected With a Cabaret Show: In conjunction with The Joe Iconis Rock and Roll Jamboree group show at 54 Below (photo left), the songwriter and his "merry band of musical theatre misfits," released a dynamic digital CD featuring 16 Iconis songs, including two that were featured during the last season of TV's Smash.
Best Editing of a Cabaret Show to Fit a Classic Pop Song: After doing just a snippet of Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" in earlier shows, Lauren Fox and her Musical Director Jon Weber flawlessly performed the entire 7-plus minute song into Fox's show, Canyon Folkies, and didn't have to cut another number from the set list.
Best One-Off Performance by a Blues Singer: She only gigged a couple of solo shows while in New York the past few years, but powerhouse vocalist Lauren Robert made her presence felt at Iridium last May, staging a pulsating show featuring her original song "Look Out Love," which has been transformed into a dance-mix and club hit.
Best Original Song for a Tribute Show: Rosemary Loar's "Between the A Train and the Rainbow" for her show When Harry Met the Duke (photo right), which included the lovely and clever line: "No one will ever know why the music didn't flow/Between the A Train and the Rainbow."
Best Performance by a Bronx-Born Singer Who Once Appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show: Forty-four years after she was a teenage sensation, Karen Wyman made the Cabaret Comeback of the Year with shows at the Metropolitan Room.
Best Performances at Café Carlyle's New 10:45 PM Shows: There were so many great turns by singers making their debuts at the Carlyle it was tough to pick one, so let's call it a tie between Natalie Douglas, Marissa Mulder, Jennifer Sheehan, Stacy Sullivan, and Joanne Tatham. They were all wonderful and it won't be long before many of them, if not all, are getting runs during the club's featured time slot.
Best Performance Conveying the Total Seediness of New York City in the Late 1970s: Billie Roe (and her Director Lennie Watts and Musical Director Tracy Stark) colorfully captured the dark, gritty side of the Big Apple in her Tom Waits tribute show, 1978 NYC Underground.
Best Performance by a Singer Doing One of My Favorite Songs by One of My Musical Heroes: In her solo show Scrapbook 2.0 at Birdland and in the Salute to Singer/Songwriters of the Seventies during Winter Rhythms at Urban Stages, Natalie Douglas breathed new life into Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."
Best Performances By a Singer Who Hasn't Done a Cabaret Show and Definitely Should: Staten Island-based crooner Tony Babino (photo left) blew away the audience at October's New York Sheet Music Society radio recreation of The Jolson Story by singing almost 20 Al Jolson hits as if they were being sung by Jolson himself, and in November he wowed the crowd at Dana Lorge's Variety Show at the Metropolitan Room.
Best Performance of a Song Performed at Woodstock: Carole J. Bufford produced one of the year's sensational solo singing star turns with her rendition of Janis Joplin's version of George Gershwin's "Summertime" at the Tribute to Woodstock variety show at 54 Below.
Best Performance by a String Instrumentalist Who is Not a Guitar or Bass Player: Another tie. Violinist Aaron Weinstein's deadpan yet hilarious combination of classical musical with a Gershwin medley at October's Cabaret Convention, and Bradley Bosenback's violin riffs during Tanya Moberly's standout November show I Love New York Songwriters at Don't Tell Mama.
Best Piano-less Cabaret Show: For her excellent show, Up On the Roof, Barbara Porteus used a strings-only band of Musical Director/Lead Guitarist Jack Cavari, John Miller on bass guitar, and guitarist Larry Saltzman and the keyboard playing wasn't missed.
Best Rendition of a Beatles Song By a Jazz Singer: Jane Monheit's mashup of "Golden Slumbers" with "The Long and Winding Road," was totally enchanting during her May show at Birdland.
Best Retro 1940s Look By a Female Singer: This one's a tie. On the same day (April 7), both Corinna Sowers-Adler (for her show By Request at Stage 72) and Lianne Marie Dobbs (for Everything Old Is New Again at the Metropolitan Room) channeled their inner Big Band front singer by wearing vintage clothes in sets that included classic songs like "Sentimental Journey" (Corinna) and "As Time Goes By" (Lianne, photo right).
Best Return of a Cabaret Variety Show Host at a New Venue: Although her new variety show isn't the unpredictable and raucous fun it was when it ran weekly at the Iguana Restaurant, it was great to see one of cabaret's priceless characters, Dana Lorge, hosting a monthly show at the Metropolitan Room.
Best Structure and Performance of a Medley: This was a close one because there were so many terrific medleys performed this past year, including Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway's "Huge Medley" (parts of 18 songs) from their duo show, Sibling Rivalry, Karen Gross' "Cabaret Mixtape Medley," and Alison Nusbaum and Jackie Kristel's mass quantity of pop songs in their "Guilty Pleasures" medley from Together Again . . . For the Last Time. But the winner is Adam Shapiro's "Relationship Medley" from his late 2012 show Guide to the Perfect Breakup (photo left) which featured snippets of 21 songs and told a story with a beginning, middle and end.
Best Use of a Hat as Part of a Costume: Lauren Fox erotically channeling Leonard Cohen by wearing a fedora for the song "I'm Your Man" in her Joni Mitchell/Cohen Tribute Show, Love, Lust, Fear and Freedom.
Best Use of Historical Information In Cabaret Show Patter: T. Oliver Reid's fascinating factoids about the glory days of the Cotton Club, etc, for his show, Drop Me Off In Harlem.
Best Use of Personal Photos/Multi-Media Presentation in a Show: In his absorbing tribute show, Character Man, Jim Brochu mixed in some wonderful snapshots of himself with many of the great actors to which he paid tribute.
Best Use of Songs From Walt Disney Films: In his solid solo debut cabaret show at the Metropolitan Room, Bernard Dotson dazzled on a Disney song section which included singing part of "Zip A Dee Doo Dah" in Japanese, doing a playful rap on oodles of Disney character names, and turning "Part of Your World," from The Little Mermaid into a fun parody about being Black and wanting to go "where the Black people are."
Best Use of a Songwriter's Quotes In a Tribute Show: Marissa Mulder and her Director Lauren Fox constructed a compelling script built around various Tom Waits commentaries for Mulder's show In His Words: The Songs of Tom Waits.
Best Variety/Benefit Show: This is a tie between the early January Lauren Fox-produced Cabaret Rocks the Rockaways, which was a fund raiser for Hurricane Sandy victims at the Metropolitan Room, and the April Concerts for City Greens' First Annual Gala & 2012 Songwriting Contest Finale, a variety show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre produced by Raissa Katona Bennett that served as a fundraiser for the launch of a new non-profit called Music and Art for Green, which will incorporate Concerts for City Greens within its umbrella.
Most Economical Use of a Beatles Song as a Sexual Metaphor: In her show Up On the Roof, Barbara Porteus told the story of an early teenage erotic experience by just singing the line, "Happiness Is a Warm Gun."
Most Intriguing Performer Who Didn't Do a New York Show in 2012 Whom I Was Looking Forward to Seeing Perform in 2013 and Who Justified My Anticipation: The bubbly Pamela Lewis (Champagne Pam) produced one of the most charming shows of the year with Daddy's Little Girl at the Laurie Beechman.
Most Over-the-Top, Yet Fun Performance By An Instrumentalist in a Variety Show: Bass player Ritt Henn (far right in photo right) imitating Joe Cocker singing and playing "With a Little Help From My Friends," during the Tribute to Woodstock variety show at 54 Below.
Most Surprisingly Powerful Show That I Didn't Expect To Be So Good: Steve Schalchlin's highly-personal and emotionally enriching, Tales From the Bonus Round, was a 60th Birthday/CD release show that was a revelation at the Metropolitan Room in late October.