Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Looking back over the last year and the last four years.

By: Dec. 31, 2023
Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
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 It’s another New Year’s Eve, another year gone by, and another chance to make a list of the shows that, most, resonated with me during the last twelve months.  And as I look back at the months, the weeks, the days, it occurs to me that there have been a lot of wonderful memories made since that day when Rob Diamond sat me down in a Hell’s Kitchen coffee shop and asked me to be the lead writer and editor of Broadway World Cabaret.  What a compliment.  Really, how nice it was of the founder and CEO of Broadway World to trust me with the task of telling the stories of the artists of the cabaret and concert industry.  I was so proud and so excited as I started my first day of work on August 1st, 2019.  It was a Lillias White show at 54 Below called MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY and, just as she was about to begin singing “The Way He Makes Me Feel” Lillias announced she had forgotten the words and did anyone know them.  Without thinking, I tentatively raised my hand, and Lillias White told me to come up and help her out, to which I replied “I can’t.”

“You’re holding a notebook.  Are you a reviewer?”

“Yes.”

“Well.  Too bad for you.”

And everyone laughed.  

What a way to start the adventure of a lifetime.  And there were adventures.  And there were memories, such good memories.

July 31st, 2019 - Cady Huffman plays her show MISS Peggy Lee: IN HER OWN WORDS AND MUSIC at The Green Room 42.  A request to review the show is declined but an invitation to attend, as a courtesy, is extended, a shame because the review would have been a rave.

August 6th, 2019 - Donna McKechnie appears in THE LINEUP WITH Susie Mosher.  I am in the audience and it is the beginning of a four-year love fest between me and a woman with whom I share a last name but no DNA… and an ongoing love affair with her incredible show.

August 21st, 2019 - The Drinkwater Brothers step in for a canceled show at Birdland, and I am lucky enough to go, making me a fan for life.

September 15th, 2019 - Frances Ruffelle redefines the art form of cabaret with Frances Ruffelle LiveS In New York at The Green Room 42.  It immediately takes the number one spot for the best cabaret show I have ever seen, a spot it holds, to this day.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Frances Ruffelle

September 22nd, 2019 - Donna Murphy makes a rare appearance on the cabaret stage in Marin Mazzie’S SUNFLOWER POWER HOUR, giving an emotionally charged performance in honor of her late best friend.

October 16th, 2019 - Brady Schwind introduces the (current) Broadway World Cabaret team to Amy Beth Williams with THIS review, and everyone falls in love.

October 18th, 2019 - I do a phone interview with Mare Winningham.  I am, officially, in the big time.

October 30th, 2019 - Stephanie Blythe stops the Cabaret convention on Judy Garland night with “It’s A New World” and “I Don’t Care” 

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Stephanie Blythe

November 3rd, 2019 - Jack Bartholet stuns a Standing Room Only crowd at Pangea with his take-no-prisoners talent, attitude, and show LADY WITH A SONG.

November 6th, 2019 - I answer the telephone to do an interview and the voice on the other end says, “Stephen, this is Vanessa Williams.”  And I swoon.

December 10, 2019 -  In the Laurie Beechman-hosted group show DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? Ben Moss sings “Beautiful City” and I discover a truly special artist whose work I will champion and support forever.  

December 21, 2019 - After seeing Ben Jones sing one song in a Sinatra-themed group show at 54 Below, I know there is something special happening.  I spend the next four years watching his meteoric rise as a star in the field of cabaret and concert, hardly a surprise since he has one of the best boy voices the world will ever hear.

January 24th, 2020 - After reading their rave review for Legally Bound at 54 Below, Orfeh-/">Orfeh and Andy Karl and the entire team of their show send over a video of them all saying “Thank you.”

February 5th, 2020 - Bobby Patrick writes THIS review that gets me an email from Julie Halston telling me that no other reviewer had ever gotten her so good.

February 7, 2020 -  In an audacious moment, Ari Axelrod surprises the Beach Cafe audience by leaving the stage and walking through the venue singing “Somewhere” to every person, taking hands, looking into eyes, and embracing people.  It is cabaret, it is theater, it is storytelling, it is humanity at its very best.

March 3rd, 2020 -  The great Bobby Steggert comes out of retirement for one night for the YANK! reunion concert and three men who played one beautiful role on three different continents are seen in the most tender embrace ever seen.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Bobby Steggert

March 9, 2020 - Artists dressed to the nines pack the Gotham Comedy Club, even as they bump elbows, rather than embrace.  There are rumors of a New York City lockdown, as the cabaret community celebrates The Bistro Awards.

March 10th, 2020 - Jim Caruso hosts The Lineup while wiping down microphones with Clorox wipes and taking in-real-time calls from Susie Mosher, at the hospital, awaiting the birth of her son.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Jim Caruso

March 26, 2020 -  Debbie Wileman receives her first Broadway World Cabaret coverage for the viral A SONG A DAY series, out of the United Kingdom, as Isolation Creations fill the airwaves.

March 29, 2020 - With the world on lockdown and no content to be had for Broadway World Cabaret, Nicholas Adler reaches out, offering to do an interview series.  His first article is THIS interview with Nicolas King.

October 1st, 2020 - There are 52 categories in the Broadway World Awards For Cabaret, celebrating more artists than ever before.

November 5th, 2020 -  I publish a pet-themed article that gets over ten thousand views.

February 14th, 2021 - I interview new couple Linda Purl and Patrick Duffy for Valentine’s Day.  The story gets twenty-four thousand views.

April 1st, 2021 - Lillias White re-opens The Green Room 42 after a year of quarantine closure.   A Broadway World Cabaret request to attend is declined.

May 16th, 2021 - The West Bank Cafe has been presenting sidewalk entertainment during the pandemic and is, now, presenting coveted cabaret artists performing Dinner Music Sets in front of wide-open windows, as the establishment segues back into full service.  Ricky Pope is the first Broadway World Cabaret reporter to cover the series with a write-up of the Billy Stritch show.

July 8th, 2021 -  Blaine Alden Krauss turns 54 Below into a rock concert venue and the people are on their feet dancing.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Blaine Alden Krauss

August 3rd, 2021 - André De Shields is a Force of Nature in couture at 54 Below.

September 27, 2021 - Brynn Williams is interrupted mid-performance by a marriage proposal, and 54 Below is the site of a cacophonous riot of joy.

October 23, 2021 - Carmen Cusack makes her debut as a singer-songwriter, and a sigh of relief is heard by a packed 54 Below.

November 8th, 2021Jessica Vosk sits on the edge of the stage at Carnegie Hall, singing “Get Happy” without a microphone, and whispers “Thank you” before leaving the stage.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Jessica Vosk

November 8th, 2021 -  Marissa Rosen makes her Carnegie Hall debut.

December 12th, 2021 -  Ari’s Arias cements Ari Axelrod’s status as a star.

December 13th, 2021 - Marissa Rosen makes her Metropolitan Opera debut.

January 25th, 2022Jenn Colella owns the 54 Below stage and the hearts of her customary full house.

May 5th, 2022 - 54 Below owner Richard Frankel stops me, moments before the Andrea McArdle show to thank me for my “terrifyingly articulate” review of the Ken Page show HERE.

May 18, 2022 - Ann Morrison presents a musical memory play about the original Merrily We Roll Along and 54 Below goes wild.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Ann Morrison

May 23rd, 2022. -  Jess LeProtto proves that he, and he alone, is his generation’s Gene Kelly.

June 17th, 2022Rachel Bay Jones is all open heart and open arms in a 54 Below show that features her daughter Miranda.

June 30th, 2022  - I get to review a BRAND NEW Judy Garland album.

July 1st, 2022 - I get to review an album of the first Liza Minnelli concert I ever saw, in 1978.

July 27, 2022 - I get out of my lane for one day to do a feature story on the theater educational organization THE SHAKESPEARE FORUM.

September 8th, 2022 - I get to publish an interview I was lucky enough to do with British theater royalty, the amazingly down-to-earth Maria Friedman, and, yes, I was starstruck when we talked on Zoom.

October 22nd, 2022 - IT: A MUSICAL PARODY and Garrett Clayton shatter all preconceived notions of what cabaret can be.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
IT

October 28th, 2022 - My life as a photographer reaches its highest point with a studio portrait sitting with Chita Rivera.

November 17th, 2022 - Leslie Uggams performs the best show of 2022 at 54 Below.

November 20th, 2022 - My review of the Funny Girl cast album is released and gets fourteen thousand views.

December 13th, 2022 - Vanessa Williams becomes the jewel in the 54 Below crown.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Vanessa Williams

December 28, 2022 - Helane Blumfield’s Best of 2022 features an all-female/nonbinary cast.

May 13th, 2023 - I publish a review of the Amy Grant Show that breaks ten thousand views in just four days.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Amy Grant

June 21st, 2023 - Teen Dream and show business long hauler Shaun Cassidy packs 54 Below and the review gets nearly eighteen thousand hits.

August 14th, 2023 - Jonathan Hoover is left in tears after multiple ovations during his first-ever solo show, subsequently, also Inappropriate Patti’s first-ever solo show.

September 13th, 2023 - Rob Lester scribes a love letter to Linda Purl that is pure poetry.

October 14th and 16th, 2023 - I get to do not one but two articles about my favorite Broadway musical of 2023, New York, New York - one, a CD review, and, one, a photo essay of the CD signing.

November 1st, 2023 - Ricky Pope reviews Lea Michele’s Carnegie Hall Debut and the article gets 25,710 views in eight days.

November 30th, 2023 - Rebecca Kaplan turns in my favorite review she has ever written and, naturally, it's about something that takes the cabaret and concert page off the beaten path.

December 6th, 2023 - Having reviewed CDs by Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland, my homosexual holy trinity is completed when I get to review the Barbra Streisand memoir. 

And then there is the matter of four years and five months of listening to the greatest musicians on earth play music, either in their own shows or as the band members supplying the music for other artists.  It's a little overwhelming to think that such talent is available to the public on an ongoing basis.  And when all of these artists get up onto a stage there are control booth techs like KJ Hardy and Amanda Raymond, who make every show at 54 Below look and sound like a rock concert, and my personal favorite tech director, Sheridan Glover, who always turns the lighting design at The Green Room 42 into another character in every production.  These artists are an industry highlight 365 days a year.

This brings us to 2023 and the shows that are still on my mind, after twelve months of club-going.  In chronological order, they are:

Tony Yazbeck - In January of 2023 Tony Yazbeck went out on an artistic limb with his most personal show to date, telling his truth in ways of dance he had not used before, along with stories and songs, all of which illustrated who he is and what his quest is.  He dug so deep and was so honest that it was like watching early Martha Graham while listening to a poetry slam.  It was pure art in the hands of an unquenchable artist.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Wren Rivera - A Broadway star on the rise, Wren Rivera makes their solo show debut, performing with friends in a benefit to pay for their top surgery, and the performance is a master class in being one’s authentic self.  It is also one of the most joyful and entertaining concerts a patron of 54 Below could ever hope to see.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Jennifer Holliday - She is a diva and a legend and when she played a week of shows at 54 Below, during which she held nothing back, not the big notes, not the big conversations, not the big truth, it was refreshing, enlightening, and exhilarating.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Karen Akers - An icon and a beacon of light in all corners of the entertainment industry, Karen Akers is THE cabaret artist that everyone needs to see.  Some years ago, the Tony Award nominee did a cabaret and she showed everyone how it could and should be done.  A few years later, she is still the standard for how it should be done.  Everyone should see a Karen Akers show.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Jessica Vosk - Jessica Vosk got the fine folks at 92NY to go against the grain with their Lyrics And Lyricists series and, instead of The Great American Songbook, she presented the music of Laurel Canyon, as well as one of the most complete and completely perfect music shows a hippie could shake a joint at.  The histories told were fascinating, the music performed was at the top of the chart, and the Lady herself was right at home, sitting on the floor, where she seems always to be most comfortable.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Joseph Sinnot photo

Jenn Colella - With a take-no-prisoners approach to her show (and her life), Jenn Colella bursts into the room at 54 Below and the fans go crazy.  One of the great entertainers of her generation, Jenn Colella leaves no stone unturned in her attempt to engage, inform, and entertain and perform for her devoted fans, for her dedicated band, and for herself.  Jenn Colella eats life and she eats cabaret and concert.  Jenn Colella is all the damn things.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Lee Roy Reams - He is openly gay and openly in his Eighties, and he can still shock ‘em with the unbridled and UNCENSORED real Reams from a few decades back.  Telling the honest-to-goodness truth about his life, his love life, his sex life, and his work life, Lee Roy Reams let his hair down… and his 54 Below audience’s hair came down, too.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Jonathan Hoover - After making a splash on the internet at Inappropriate Patti, Jonathan Hoover went from guest appearances in friends’ shows to his own 54 Below solo show and took home four or five well-earned standing ovations.  His authenticity and overwhelming talent would appear to be what the people have been waiting for.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

John Clay III - Days after the closing of New York, New York on Broadway, John Clay III announced his solo show debut.  A matter of weeks later at The Green Room 42, he told his story, complete with full band, guest artists, true stories, and real talent.  It was the start of what will, hopefully, be a budding concert career.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Cheyenne Jackson - The Broadway star who became more and more famous in film and television as the years went by made his 54 Below solo show debut and he brought to the stage all the glamour of Hollywood, all the panache of the theater, all the honesty of storytelling, and all the authenticity of a man living his best life.  It was a performance to love, to live for, and to remember forever.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Matthew Scott - At just about sixty minutes and full of songs from pre-existing source material, THE JESUS YEAR is technically a cabaret.  But Matthew Scott didn’t create a cabaret, he wrote a play, and the story that it tells is raw, real, and replete with entertainment value and life lessons, tied up with a bow on the stage of 54 Below.  Through honesty, humor, and exquisite writing and acting, he took the art form of cabaret to new places, creating and presenting MY FAVORITE SHOW OF THE YEAR.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Sikes and King - After seeing both Nicolas King and Seth Sikes in solo shows and giving them good reviews, I was struck dumb by the “It Goes To Eleven” level of quality produced in their nightclub act THE NEW BELTERS, which played The Green Room 42.  The duo caused a chemical reaction and when the smoke cleared there was perfection.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Sutton Foster and Kelli O’Hara - In a show built around their devotion to the legendary Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett Carnegie Hall concert, the heirs apparent to the genre and format give audiences the concert event of the season.  Sixty-one years from now audience members will still be talking about it.  Read the review HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years
Richard Termine photo

Sally Mayes - Tony Award-nominated singing actress Sally Mayes makes her long-awaited return to the New York cabaret stage, and a full house of friends, fans, and colleagues get two lessons: one in how to do a right and proper cabaret and one in why they all missed Sally Mayes in the first place.  Read the write up HERE.

Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

Julie Benko had her hands full with a little Broadway property titled Funny Girl.  She became a part of Broadway history when she saved the day, saved the show, and saved all those peoples’ jobs, while some rough edges were smoothed over, and even after, as COVID repeatedly struck members of the cast.  But did being a full-time funny girl and lifebuoy tire Julie?   No.  She and her main man, husband Jason Yeager, released a CD that they recorded in their apartment during the quarantine, they debuted at Birdland, they came back to Birdland over and over, they played other rooms and other clubs in other cities and this one.  They released some Christmas singles, they released a Christmas album, and Julie closed Funny Girl one day and the next day went into rehearsals for Harmony, a brand new Broadway musical with a brand new score by Barry Manilow that is selling out and grabbing good notices.  And the whole time Julie Benko kept the world entertained and motivated with one of the best social media platforms on Broadway.  This is her moment and she is rising to the occasion.  She may have started as a funny girl but she is ending 2023 as this cabaret editor’s choice for  Entertainer of the Year.


Feature: The Best Of 2023 And The Last Four Years

And a particular highlight in 2023 was hearing so, So, SO many cabaret artists share, during their club acts, the story of their sobriety.  Recovery is a difficult thing, and when one person in recovery shares their story, they can inspire anyone else who is listening at the time to commit.  This year these people didn't only mention their sobriety during their act, they made it a part of their script:  Cheyenne Jackson, Jean Louisa Kelly, John-Andrew Morrison, Marissa Mulder, Christopher Sieber, Tony Yazbeck, and, if I'm being honest, I think there were more, but right now their names are not coming to me.

These last 1614 days have been remarkable ones, filled with remarkable events, only made possible because Rob Diamond asked me to do this and trusted me with it, for which I will always be grateful.  There have been 732 Reviews, 511 News Releases, 341 Interviews, 304 Photo Flashes, 206 Roundups, and 275 Feature Stories. I am relieved that Nicole Rosky and Alan Henry were always there to help me handle the hindrances, tackle the tech, and stay on my A-Game.  I am beholden to the writers and the photographers for their time and talent, indebted to the readers for accepting me and my words, and I am honored that the artists of the cabaret and concert community were willing to entrust me with the telling of their stories.  I am lucky that Pat Dwyer and all of my family said, “Do this,” and then stood beside me while I did.  It’s been fun, and I am a changed man because of it.

This is Stephen Mosher for Broadway World Cabaret for the last time.  Have a fun and a safe celebration tonight, have a Happy and a Healthy New Year, and go into the clubs in 2024 - wonderment awaits you there.  

NamaSTE



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