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27th New York Cabaret Convention: Saluting Sheldon Harnick & Charles Strouse

| October 24, 2016

27th New York Cabaret Convention

Saluting Sheldon Harnick & Charles Strouse

Rose Theater, NYC, October 21, 2016

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Sheldon Harnick (L) & Charles Strouse Photo: Bill Sensenbrenner

Sheldon Harnick (L) &
Charles Strouse
Photo: Bill Sensenbrenner

There couldn’t have been a grander way to close out the wonderfully successful final night of the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s 27th New York Cabaret Convention than by honoring living legends, lyricist Sheldon Harnick (She Loves Me, Fiorello, Fiddler on the Roof) and composer Charles Strouse (Annie, Bye Bye Birdie). Klea Blackhurst, host for the evening, applied her prodigious talent for the job by keeping the pace swift with humor and lots of affability. She led off the singing with an amusing and rousing “Those Were the Days,” Strouse and Lee Adams’ very recognizable theme song from the TV show, All in the  Family.

Representing from there on was a veritable panoply of prime-time cabaret talent. Suave piano man Eric Comstock honored each of the legends—delightfully present in the audience—with “She Loves Me” (Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick) and “Night Song” (Charles Strouse/Lee Adams). Operatic girls ruled with Valerie Lemon in wedding ensemble (Mike Pettry on piano) with “The Very Next Man,” while Shana Farr (Steve Ross on piano) sang a dramatic “Where Do I Go from Here.” Corinna Sowers Adler (Alex Rybeck on piano), who most certainly could have chosen a full-fledged operatic career, sang a delightfully enthusiastic “Ice Cream.” (These last three selections by Bock & Harnick.)

As an unofficial Master Class, Anita Gillette and Penny Fuller appeared singly and together (Paul Greenwood on piano and Ritt Henn on bass). As a duet they sang an indelibly beautiful “Once Upon a Time” (Strouse & Adams), while Fuller emoted with “Welcome to the Theater” (Strouse & Adams) and Gillette showed how a song can be effectively sung without belting it with “What Makes Me Love Him” (Bock & Harnick). Continuing on the distaff side, the lovelies Joanne Tatham (Alex Rybeck on piano) with “You’ve Got Possibilities” (Strouse & Adams), Marieann Meringolo (Doyle Newmyer on piano) with “Far from the Home I Love,” and Amra-Faye Wright (Mark Hummel on piano) with “I Love a Cop” all did the honorees more than proud. The last two songs are by Bock & Harnick.

Comedy was on tap with a hilarious Shawn Ryan (John McDaniel on piano, Skip Ward on bass, Mike Lunoe on drums) and a wicked rendition of “Little Girls” (Strouse & Martin Charnin) that would have made W.C. Fields guffaw. With a humorous monologue, convention debut artist Lena Moy-Borgen (Katy Pfaffl on piano) sang a droll “Gorgeous” (Bock & Harnick). Cabaret Convention debuts were a strong feature of this closing night. Zoe Gelman (Alex Rybeck on piano), a 30-year-old artfully hiding in the body of a 12-year old, and a student of Sowers Adler, belted “Maybe”/”N.Y.C.” (Strouse & Charnin). Another convention debut artist, the talent-packed Joshua Lance Dixon (Jon Weber on piano), grandly sang “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” (Strouse & Adams) and “Now I Have Everything” (Bock & Harnick) with leading man style.

Another boffo leading man, Todd Murray (Alex Rybeck on piano, Ritt Henn on bass and Dan Gross on drums) had them swooning with “Dance a Little Closer” (Strouse & Alan Jay Lerner). Before starting a sensitive rendition of “Sunrise Sunset” (Bock & Harnick), Murray was surprised by receiving the Margaret Whiting Award, presented by Debbi Whiting and underwritten by her company, My Ideal Music. Whiting’s presentation speech, so beautifully written, had some in the house in happy tears. Another award, Julie Wilson Award, underwritten by Linda and Peter Hanson, was given to Lauren Stanford in between her two numbers (Mike Pettry on piano), Bock & Harnick’s “Dear Friend” and “One Hallowe’en”/”But Alive” (Strouse & Adams).

Rounding out the list of males who also wowed ’em were Stearns Matthews (Christopher Denny on piano) with a superlative interpretation of the lyric of “Miracle of Miracles” (Bock & Harnick) and Liam Forde, called “the boy wonder” by Will Friedwald (Jon Weber on piano), with expansive renditions of “All of These and More” (Bock & Harnick) and “I Want to Be with You” (Strouse & Adams). Last but not least, the ever-pleasing tenor’s tenor Scott Coulter (John Fischer on piano) sang “There’s Always One You Can’t Forget” (Strouse & Lerner).

At the very end of four amazing nights of superlative cabaret, some 70 performers and 40 musicians later, the 27th New York Cabaret Convention came to an end with Blackhurst and the youthful Broadway by the Year Chorus (John Fischer on piano) singing a rousing “Tomorrow” (Strouse & Charnin). You bet the sun will come out tomorrow: same time next year when we can do it all again!

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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