In a year when the cabaret community has taken some major hits (the passing of Donald Smith, founder of The Mabel Mercer Foundation and its Cabaret Conventions, the closing of the venerable Oak Room Supper Club), it’s perhaps more important than ever to turn out and support one another. The Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs (MAC) packed B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill for its annual awards ceremony Thursday night.
Artists from all facets of the business fraternized, networked, ate, drank, and sat though four—FOUR—hours of acceptance and performance. Even the Oscars have cut it to three and for that one can wear pajamas! Every fanny in the room was sore.
Hosted with quick, black humor by the talented Jason Graae, the show was (otherwise) well produced by Julie Miller and directed by Lennie Watts; its smooth progression technically and logistically a Herculean task. Musical Director Tracy Stark skillfully handled widely varied material.
Highlights of the evening included two well deserved Lifetime Achievement Awards: The first was presented to composer/lyricist Ervin Drake (by producer Phil Ramone) whose credits include the song “It Was a Very Good Year” (which the 93 year-old performed—well) and the show What Makes Sammy Run. Nina Berman, Drake’s granddaughter, preceded with a song. The ubiquitous Drake and his lovely wife continue to be found at cabaret performances around town with a frequency that would debilitate younger men. The second award was presented (by performer Lucie Arnaz) to composer/lyricist David Friedman whose writing includes many of the late Nancy LaMott’s fine songs as well as extensive arranging and conducting work for the Disney Company. Friedman’s rendition of “Listen to My Heart” was as heartfelt and moving as his “I Wanna Be Rich and Famous” was funny.
This being The Year of the Songwriter, Board of Director’s Awards were presented to composer/lyricist John Bucchino, composer/lyricist Julie Gold, and lyricist Francesca Blumenthal who commented that up till now, the only Board of Directors from whom she’s gotten approval was at her CoOp.
Major Artist Winner Female AND Show of the Year went to Terese Genecco and Her Little Big Band. (Several reviews of Terese’s shows are archived on this site.) Genecco delivered one of her signature songs, 1960’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn) with energy and brio. Check the Iridium web site for appearances. Major Artist Winner Male Eric Michael Gillett (reviews and profile on site archive) sang the very appropriate “The Chance to Sing” by Billy Goldenberg and Tom Jones gracefully and in superb voice. Gillett’s latest show “I Won’t Sing a Sondheim Song—or Will I?” is currently at the Laurie Beechman Theater.
The Metropolitan Room indirectly had a banner year with five major winners who make their New York home at the club: Best Female Vocalist Janice Hall (next on April 18), Best Male Vocalist Craig Pomranz, New York Debut Female Lauren Fox (April 5), New York Debut Male, T. Oliver Reid, and Hanson Award winner Rosemary Loar. Loar offered a version of “Bourbon Street” positively steaming up the room with sultry showmanship. The venue’s booker clearly has both expertise and taste.
Ever irrepressible Marilyn Maye (at Feinstein’s starting April 24) accepted Celebrity Artist of the Year saying that musicians have been more important in her life than three husbands and a love affair. The vocalist continues to deliver warmth, style and top notch entertainment.
At several junctures during the proceedings, satirical video was shown in which Christine Pedi impersonated Liza Minnelli. Some were spot-on. Catch them on YouTube.
All Photos by Maryann Lopinto except marquee at top
1. Host Jason Graae
2. Lifetime Award Winners:Left, Lucie Arnaz awards David Friedman; Nina Berman with her award winning grandfather, Ervin Drake
3. Winners: From left, Teresa Genecco, Eric Michael Gillett, left with pianist, Jeff Cubeta, Janice Hall, Craig Pomranz
4. Winners: From left, Rosemary Loar, Lauren Fox and T. Oliver Reid, Marilyn Maye
For a full list of artists selected by their peers as worthy of MACS, go to the organization’s website.