Hello, everyone! Happy Cabaret Month!
I hope you are as happy as I am to see what seemed like the longest February on record in our rear view mirrors! February is my birthday month and it was a month of many highs and a few lows! I saw some great shows. The month kicked off with Peggy Eason making her Iridium debut. It has been fun to watch her growth over the past year. She was singled out by Nightlife Exchange as one of the top 25 to watch out for in 2015. She is making good on that promise by garnering her first MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) nomination in the category of Female Vocalist. Let the games begin. All of the women in that category are worthy of our attention.
I returned to the Iridium the following week to see the always-delightful Bobby Belfry blow the roof off with the equally-pleasing Dale Budway Band. Bobby is one of those great talents that I don’t see as much of as I would like, and we are both Rockland County denizens! We literally live ten minutes from each other. His was the show that I picked as my 2015 Birthday event. Although it was one of those record-breaking cold nights, it was worth the effort to trek into town and see his take on the Great American Songbook. Keep your eyes open for him and catch him the next time he’s around.
Another artist I caught in February was Celia Berk. I was a fan before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon! I saw her perform with Rich Flanders years ago in one of Sarah Rice’s great showcases. She even appeared at The Iguana when I co-hosted with Dana Lorge several years ago. In October, both Celia and Peggy Eason appeared in the Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention on the same night honoring Irving Berlin. Both brought down the house. It was thrilling to see these two great talents getting the attention they deserve. When Celia hit the cabaret scene with her first show a few months ago, she won over all who saw her, including Rex Reed, who sung her praises in print. Actually, all the critics have been as impressed! Go see Celia. She returns to the Metropolitan Room later this month. On March 4th, she will be receiving a Bistro Award and she’s also been nominated for two MAC Awards later this month, in the Best Female Debut category and for her CD, You Can’t Rush Spring (also the name of her show). You can catch her March 28th at 1PM and March 29th at 9:30 PM at The Metropolitan Room.
February also saw the Oscars. It’s worth mentioning here for two reasons: Lady Gaga and Stephen Oremus! Lady Gaga proved to the world that nothing succeeds like a great singer and great songs. No special effects. She just sang a medley from one of the most beloved films of all time, The Sound of Music, celebrating its 50th Anniversary on March 2nd! She even sang the songs in Julie Andrews’ original keys. Her musical director, Stephen Oremus, said she’d been coming to his apartment for six months working on it. Years ago, Oremus and I met at Theatre By The Sea in Matunick, Rhode Island (where I also worked with MAC president Lennie Watts) and Stephen was my musical director for a while. I am so proud of what he has accomplished! I love the fact that Lady Gaga, one of the most popular pop singers of this generation has embraced the Great American Songbook. The work she has done with Tony Bennett over the past two years is exemplary.
In addition to the Bistro Awards this week, we’ll have the MAC Awards March 26th. That will end the month on many highs (for those that win) and lows for those who don’t make it to the podium to accept their awards. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of that equation, and my advice to all is to focus on continuing to do consistently good work. Enjoy the journey and let’s celebrate each other.
I have been part of this community for over 25 years, but it seems like it was just yesterday when I was seeing my first cabaret show and knew I wanted to be part of this world! Be careful what you wish for! I have experienced both the memorable highs and lows of trying to etch out a career in this world. The one constant that stands out above all others, however, is cabaret’s shared sense of community. We often are too hard on ourselves. Remember, you don’t have to feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life. Either they are on your team or they are not. If they are not, that’s okay, put them aside and clear the way for those that want to support you. If your efforts are positive and involve “creating,” I want to be on your team! Let’s all enjoy the journey, because there’s lots to enjoy! This week, we have seen a radical extremist group’s destruction of art and antiquities that can never be recovered. They are trying to wipe out history. How vile. Again, we need to cherish what is, what has been, and open the doors for what is next.
As we all get dressed-up and go to these award shows, it’s wonderful to have a sense of belonging. This is my first column under the moniker of Man About Cabaret. I want to be your man about town. I want to be there celebrating you and your accomplishments and to share in that journey with you and help to share it with others.
Here’s what I think you should be on the lookout for…
Birdland’s Jazz Party every Sunday Night in March! The month began with the wonderful Gabrielle Stravelli and the dynamic tap dancer Andrew Nemr, plus Mark Hartman on piano and Charles Ruggiero on percussion and hosted by the great Natalie Douglas! https://www.facebook.com/events/740051556090050
Karen Mason, returning to where it all began for her in cabaret—to the “room with the dome” at Don’t Tell Mama — in Mason at Mama’s in March. She’ll be performing every Sunday and Monday at 7:00 pm throughout the month.
Monday, March 2nd, when author Tom Santopietro will be interviewed by Ted Chapin from The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization at Barnes & Noble 86th Street And Lex at 7:00 PM. They’ll be discussing his latest book, The Sound of Music Story.
Wednesday, March 4th, for the 30th Annual Bistro Awards. When cabaret’s oldest award, the Bistro Awards, celebrates turning 30, eleven honorees from the past will be appearing in addition to the eleven 2015 award winners. Jason Graae hosts. 6:30PM Gotham Comedy Club, 208 West 23rd Street. For this one, reservations are a must! BistroAwards.com
Donna Hayes’ return to the Metropolitan Room with her newest show, Ordinary Miracles, directed by Gretchen Reinhagen with musical direction by Justin Stoney. Added to the mix for this Friday night March 6th show are Tom Hubbard on bass and Donna Kelly on drums. Reservations can be made by calling 212-206-0440
The Ted & Lo Show starring Ted Stafford and Lorinda Lisitza, wrapping up their acclaimed residency at Don’t Tell Mama on March 12th at 7pm. Their arrangements of everything from covers to original compositions prove that one guitar, one harmonica and two voices can sound as big as a stadium rock band or as immediate as the listener’s own conscience.
Puttin’ on the Brits! Sunday, March 15th at 7:00PM at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, downstairs at 42nd Street’s West Bank Café, when Amy Wolk and William TN Hall salute British pop music, with many special guests. All proceeds will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Vickie Phillips, on Thursday, March 19th, as the Bistro Award winner returns to Don’t Tell Mama in a show that is very special to her heart. It is a loving memorial tribute to her son Kirk. It will benefit Memorial Sloan Kettering. The show is entitled To Life and Rainbows. Reservations can be made on line at DontTellMama.com.
Thursday, March 26th, when Karen Mason hosts The 2015 MAC Awards at B.B. King’s. Radio host and impresario David Kenney will receive the Board of Directors Award, with Lifetime Achievement Awards on tap for Baby Jane Dexter and Steve Ross. www.macnyc.com
Finally, coming up as next month begins, Gretchen Reinhagen returns Wednesday, April 1st to the Metropolitan Room performing three of her favorite shows, with three of her favorite musical directors, over three months, singing three times the tunes. Later on, MAC Award winner
Joan Jaffee will do Funnier Than Ever…. Sunday, April 12th at the Abingdon Theatre
I plan to see you all here again soon. In the meantime, be sure and check out my blog celebrating artists and their bodies of worth at Richard Skipper Celebrates. I am always happy to receive recommendations for my blog features.