For the last 8 years the Metropolitan Room has been hosting the MetroStars contest each July and August to identify the year’s best up-and-coming New York cabaret performers – of any age. (Top photo: Minda Larsen) On Monday, July 27, the Metropolitan Room hosted the second round of this year’s sing-off to reduce the current class numbers from 18 to 13. The ultimate winner will get a four show prime-time gig at the Met Room, a video and CD recording of their show and will be interviewed on the radio by Bill Boggs; the contestants will be offered some experienced professional coaching.
Past winners of the MetroStars competition include Anne Steele (2008), Liz Lark Brown (2009), T. Oliver Reid (2010), Marissa Mulder (2011), Billie Roe (2012), Lauren Stanford (2013) and Kristoffer Lowe (2014), all excellent and engaging performers – from which you can draw some conclusions about the legitimacy of the process. This year an applicant pool of 42 has been narrowed in the course of performances on a month of Mondays to the current 13.
The next rounds of competition will take place, wait, wait, you guessed it, Mondays August 3, 10 and 17. Audience members vote, as well as a panel of guest judges of musicians and journalists varying each evening (on July 27 – David Noh, Aaron Weinstein, Sharon McKnight, and Tom Toce) and a standing panel of judges (this year including Roy Sander, Gretchen Reinhagen and Joseph Macchia). MAC award winner Tom Gamblin is the host and Tracy Stark is the music director of the competition.
The talent on display ranged a bit as you might expect but every performer brought some serious singing chops to the stage. Nonetheless, performers will have to learn, and reflect, not only a strong voice, but an appealing presence; a warmth and emotional generosity; will have to connect with the audience; will have to display grace and the ability to put the audience at ease.
The demands may seem unfair – but a performer’s “job” is to deliver to the audience an enjoyable show. That includes providing a sense of connection and security and, often, random bits of surprise, humor, music history and flirtation.
Standouts at Monday’s show included (in performance order) Lisa Remick singing “Why Try to Change me Now” (Cy Coleman); Parker Scott singing “Taking the Wheel” (SheDaisy); Lily Ali-Oshatz singing “I’m Changing My Major” from Fun Home (Kron/Tesori); Christopher Brossman singing “Way Ahead of My Time” (Peter Mills); Thomas Dieter singing “Broken Vow” (Josh Groban) and Minda Larsen singing “It Never Entered my Mind” (Lorenz Hart).
If the next round of competition included only the six of them, it would be worth your time to take in the show. The 13 contestants who passed through this Monday’s gantlet included all of the above plus Josephine Bianco, Georgia Bibeau-Lampel, April Leonhard, Jennylind Parris, Josephine Sanges, Sheree Sano and Christa Whitlow – all of whom will further enrich the next rounds of competition. If you attend any of those rounds you will hear some excellent talents – before they achieve cruising altitude or launch into orbit.
All photos by FredCohenPhotography; to see more of Fred Cohen’s Cabaret photography, click here.