KT Sullivan, James Gavin, Klea Blackhurst and More on Tap for 28th Annual Cabaret Convention

By: Aug. 16, 2017

With its unique combination of the best of past and present popular song, the annual Cabaret Convention stands as a pivotal, highly-anticipated highlight of New York City's autumn music season.

More than sixty classic and newcomer performers will appear in its 2017 incarnation, produced for the 28th consecutive year by The Mabel Mercer Foundation from Monday through Thursday evenings at 6 o'clock, October 16th - 19th, at the Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, at 6 o'clock.

As ever, The Foundation - now in its fourth decade of operation - celebrates the pride of the cabaret profession and its repertoire. This year, their four concerts are highlighted by an evening of the melodies of George Gershwin, another that pays homage to Hoagy Carmichael and Richard Whiting, and a third that heralds the "golden age" of Manhattan's supper clubs, boites, bistros, and piano bars. Interspersed among the cherished musical standards will be the extensive output of new composers and lyricists - especially to be heard during the gala opening night show.

KT Sullivan, artistic director of the Foundation, enthused, "Whatever we do, we take pride in assembling an amalgam of songs and styles. Our 2017 performers range from teenagers to senior citizens, and as ever, we have at least ten people on the roster who are brand new to the Cabaret Convention. It's a feature of our charter that we introduce our audiences to entertainers they might well not have already seen or heard - and we love doing that."

The complete roster for the twenty-eighth New York Cabaret Convention is provided below. Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall is located at Broadway and 60th Street. Presale advance tickets are now available ONLY through The Mabel Mercer Foundation: (212) 980-3026, FAX: (212) 980-3049, or info@mabelmercer,org. Prices are $100, $50, and $25, and Premium Patron Seating is also available @ $500 ($350 of which is tax-deductible). Those holding Patron Seating tickets are invited to a post-show cocktail reception with the evening's artists, and Patron Seating is limited to fifty seats per performance. On Tuesday, September 5th, any remaining tickets will be available for sale ONLY through Jazz at Lincoln Center: on their website (www.jalc.org); at their box office, Broadway at 60th Street at the Time Warner Center, ground floor (Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m, to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m.. to 6 p.m.); or via CenterCharge: 212-721-6500.

Sullivan herself will introduce the Gala Opening Night; two of the other evenings will be emceed by three cabaret, audience, and Foundation favorites: KLea Blackhurst, Jeff Harnar, and Andrea Marcovicci. The remaining presentation brings a new host to the Convention: celebrated author/music historian James Gavin, whose acclaimed biographies of Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Chet Baker were preceded by Intimate Nights (most recently available in a revised edition from Back Stage Books) which recaptures in extraordinary detail The Golden Age of New York Cabaret. A twenty-five-year freelance contributor to The New York Times and a two-time winner of ASCAP's Deems Taylor-Virgil Thomson Award for excellence in music journalism, Gavin will serve as compere for a concert that reflects back on that era and those of today's entertainers who continue its traditions. Sullivan notes, "Jim and I discussed the performers together, and he picked the people for his night. Two of them in particular - Charles Cochran and Ronny Whyte - launched their careers near the end of that extraordinary time, and the evening itself is specifically dedicated to Barbara Carroll, 'The First Lady of the American Keyboard.'" Carroll, age 92, died last February.

Two of the four annual Foundation honors will be presented on opening night, with the other two offered during the final performance. "But only the recipient of The Mabel Mercer Award - this year, Vivian Reed - has been announced in advance," reports Sullivan. "The winners of the Julie Wilson, Margaret Whiting, and Donald F. Smith commemorations will come as a surprise to the audience and to the vocalists being recognized."

It was legendary New York entertainment publicist Donald F. Smith who founded The Mabel Mercer Foundation in 1985. Since its inception, the organization has stood at the forefront of the "cabaret campaign," both for artists and repertoire. Their entertainments have presented more than fifteen hundred singers and musicians (both veterans and promising fledglings) in large and intimate venues all over the country, abroad, and at sea. Apart from regular concerts, the Foundation also embraces and endorses educational programming and outreach. In the process, its performers have captivated world-wide audiences of all ages, while simultaneously revering the memory of The Foundation's namesake: the humble woman of limitless artistry who interpreted hundreds of lyrics and melodies in a career that began in 1914 and continued until the early 1980s. Mabel Mercer (1900-1984) served as an inspiration to countless nonpareil singers, ranging from Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland to Billie Holiday and Barbara Cook; in 1983, Miss Mercer was given the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sinatra is on record as saying, "Everything I learned...I owe to Mabel Mercer. Mabel has enriched my life and the lives of all who were fortunate to know her, or even to see her and hear her."

Here is the 28th annual Cabaret Convention roll-call (all artists subject to availability). All performances begin at 6 p.m., and those entertainers who make their Cabaret Convention debuts in 2017 have an asterisk prior to their names:

Monday, October 16th: Gala Opening Night, hosted by KT Sullivan. With Corinna Sowers Adler, Danny Bacher, Brent Barrett, Carole J. Bufford, Joshua Lance Dixon, *Tommy J. Dose, *Greg Gropper, *Luba Mason, Marilyn Maye, Amanda McBroom, *Tanya Moberly, Karen Oberlin, *Lyric Peterson, Vivian Reed, *Adam Shapiro, Jacob Storms. Presentation of The Donald F. Smith Award, underwritten by Adela & Larry Elow. Presentation of The Mabel Mercer Award to Vivian Reed.

Tuesday, October 17th: S'Wonderful: The Music of George Gershwin, hosted by Jeff Harnar and Andrea Marcovicci. With Karen Akers, Anna Bergman, Celia Berk, Eric Comstock, Barbara Fasano, *Dominic Ferris, Shauna Hicks, Clint Holmes, Nicolas King, Stearns Matthews, *Martin Milnes, Marissa Mulder, Mark Nadler, T. Oliver Reid, Steve Ross, Jennifer Sheehan, DeBorah Silver, Gabrielle Stravelli, Jon Weber, Aaron Weinstein.

Wednesday, October 18th: Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of Cabaret, hosted by James Gavin. With *Joanne Beretta, Barbara Brussell, Charles Busch, Charles Cochran, Natalie Douglas, *Laura Kenyon, *Carol Lipnik, Maude Maggart, Nellie McKay, Sidney Myer, Molly Pope, Ricky Ritzel, Spider Saloff, *Bruce Vilanch, Ronny Whyte. (This evening is dedicated to Barbara Carroll, "The First Lady of the American Keyboard.")

Thursday, October 19th: Too Marvelous for Words/Stardust: The Music of Hoagy Carmichael & Richard Whiting, hosted by KLea Blackhurst. With Matt Baker, Joie Bianco, Shana Farr, Liam Forde, Eric Yves Garcia, Gregory Generet, Valerie Lemon, KristoffeR Lowe, Tammy McCann, Todd Murray, Josephine Sanges, Stacy Sullivan, Carol Woods, Amra-Faye Wright. Presentation of The Margaret Whiting Award, underwritten by My Ideal Music. Presentation of The Julie Wilson Award, underwritten by Linda & Peter Hanson.


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