The 30th New York Cabaret Convention: Judy! A Garland of Song

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The 30th New York Cabaret Convention

Judy! A Garland of Song

Rose Theater, NYC, October 30, 2019

Reviewed by Jerry Osterberg for Cabaret Scenes

Judy Garland

With a magnificent photo of Judy Garland gazing down from upstage, Klea Blackhurst and John Fricke initiated the third evening of the 2019 New York Cabaret Convention. Blackhurst introduced Fricke, long recognized as the foremost expert on Garland.

Performers were mostly accompanied by the night’s house band: Steve Doyle on bass, Ray Marchica on drums, and pianist Jon Weber as music director. Jennifer Sheehan, accompanied by James Fallowell, opened with “Once in a Lifetime” and “But Not for Me.” Her performance was incredible. Nathan Chang surprised with “Purple People Eater.” Not only had Garland performed it, but it’s on the album Garland at the Grove. He added a tender “The Boy Next Door.”

Making her Convention debut, Hannah Jane Peterson received the 2019 Julie Wilson Award. Starting with a high-powered “The Joint Is Really Jumping at Carnegie Hall,” she segued to “My Friendly Star,” demonstrating her more typical softer side. Will Nunziata began with a fast-paced “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Twin brother Anthony sang Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with sincere passion. The twins also paired for “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Get Happy.”

Carole J. Bufford delivered a memorable “Lose That Long Face”; her delivery was nothing less than superb. Bufford’s relaxed phrasing and presence were ideal for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”Ruby Rakos, starring in Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz, performed “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” and “I’m Nobody’s Baby,” allowing her to demonstrate impressive chops. Karen Mason wowed with Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin’s “The Man That Got Away,” and extended the excitement by promoting her hometown “Chicago.”

Natalie Douglas opened with “As Long as He Needs Me,” written by Lionel Bart.She conveyed all the passion of the song. “By Myself,” beginning it as a gentle, albeit sad ballad and rising to an anthem of self-reliance. Stephanie Blythe sang “It’s a New World,” before lifting her skirts and dancing in place to wild laughter and applause for “I Don’t Care.” Blythe mined the brassy number for full value.
Another performer with a powerful voice and presence was Leanne Borghesi, who opened with a medley of “The Trolley Song” and “San Francisco.” She followed with an Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz standard “Alone Together,” which she brought to a powerful finish.

Sidney Myer, accompanied by Tracy Stark, launched himself into Irving Berlin’s “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam’.” He was touching in “It’s All for You,” an evocative declaration of love written by Johnny Meyer for Garland. Billy Stritch, whose voice and style are made for cabaret, performed “Just in Time” and “I Could Go on Singing.” Both songs demonstrated that Stritch is the epitome of suave.

Klea Blackhurst performed “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow,” an old Irish folk ballad with additional lyrics by Roger Edens.
The final song of the evening written by Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen, was “When the Sun Comes Out,” with Blackhurst showing once again what a fantastic performer she is.

The delightful evening ended with the entire audience singing along to Judy’s recording of “Over the Rainbow,” the touchstone for our first memory of Judy Garland, who was already capable of capturing our hearts.

Jerry Osterberg

After decades in the banking field, singing in a chorale, and writing on just about every subject under the sun, Jerry left finance and decided to devote himself to the American Songbook. Countless workshops in singing and writing later, he began contributing articles to the New York Sheet Music Society and to write reviews and feature stories for Cabaret Scenes. Jerry is now the Contributing Editor for the monthly newsletter of the NYSMS, continues to perform in chorus, and is currently researching a biography of the late American pop singer Jo Stafford.