Sandra Bernhardt, Michele Lee




by Matt Smith



“Live entertainment… there’s nothing like it!” shouts renowned actress Michele Lee, upon receiving her Lifetime Achievement Award at the spirited Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs (MAC) Awards, held last night at B. B. King Blues Club and Grill. Indeed, there isn’t — and anyone in need of a reminder need look no further than last night’s dazzling starry event. From Dick Cavett and Sandra Bernhardt to Michele Lee to Karen Mason and Ginger Minj, everyone who’s anyone turned up to toast the best of the best of New York cabaret, from performers to productions to musicians, directors, and designers. The room was abuzz with energy immediately from the start; winners thanked parents, friends, and the ever-important musical director — “Remember, it’s the MAC Award, not the Nobel Peace Prize,” quips cabaret artist Raissa Katona Bennett, upon explaining the rules — amidst a plethora of splashy, flashy performances from the majority of winners, whose odes to cabaret life included the upbeat “You’re All the World to Me,” “Raising the Rent,” “The Life I Never Led” (Sister Act) and “I Can Cook Too” (On the Town).
The one appropriately stark exception to the madness came mid-evening, when Ricky Ritzel took the stage to honor those we’ve lost, and singer Julie Reyburn moved the room with a somber original tune (penned by musical director, nominee, and eventual winner Tracy Stark) that perfectly expressed our thoughts on the departed.
In short, to sum up, we toasted the past and present with vim and verve, and looked toward the future with humor and hope. (While accepting his award, performer Bill Zeffiro put it best: “God bless the American Songbook…. and God bless MAC for keeping it alive!”) Here’s a look at the evening’s big winners, marked with an asterisk among the rest of the nominees in each category. Congratulations to all!




*Almost Like Being in Love: An Evening of Alan Jay Lerner (performed by KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler, directed by Mark Nadler)
Broadway Boozy Brunch (created by Manuel Araujo and Patrick Degennaro, produced by Don’t Tell Mama)
Rodgers, Hart, And Hammerstein (created and written by Marcus Simeone)

Special Production
The Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular (written and created by Joe Iconis, produced by Jennifer Ashley Tepper, directed by John Simpkins)
*Mama’s Next Big Act (produced by Don’t Tell Mama and Lennie Watts)
Metrostar Talent Challenge (produced by Joseph Macchia, Tom Gamblin, Beck Lee, Bernie Furshpan)

Ensemble Instrumentalist
Donna Kelly, Drums/Percussion
*Tom Hubbard, Bass
Matt Scharfglass, Bass
Kenji Tajima, Drums/Percussion

Wingspan Arts MAC Cabaret Student
Maddie Rockwitz

Musical Comedy Performer
Lynda Rodolitz, Lynda Rodolitz Is Off Her Rocker
*Billie Roe, Monopoly
Aaron Weinstein, Violinspiration

Impersonation/Characterization/Drag Artist
Margoh! Channing, Margoh! Channing Is Uncorked; Margoh! Channing Is Hung
Lady Bunny, Trans Jester
*Rick Skye, Liza Live!

Comedy/Novelty Song
“The Christmas Tree Blues,” Music by Derek Gregor; Lyrics by Sam Carner
*“The Mom Song,” Music by Nate Buccieri; Lyrics by Elaine Brier
“Selfie,” Music and Lyrics by Drew Fornarola
“Sitting at Julie Gold’s Piano,” Music and Lyrics by Christine Lavin
“So Many Reasons,” Music by Scott Schneider; Lyrics by Tim Aumiller

*“Before I Forget,” Music and Lyrics by Scott Evan Davis
“Filling Space,” Music and Lyrics by Derek Gregor and Selda Sahin
“More Than Fine,” Music and Lyrics by Andrew David Sotomayor
“Thirty-Five Years,” Music and Lyrics by Emily Bandager
“Waiting,” Music and Lyrics by David Grego; Lyrics by Sam Carner

Board of Directors Award
Ken Starrett

Anita Gillette & Penny Fuller, Sin Twisters Too
Sally Mayes & Jeff Harnar, Double Take
*Those Girls (Eve Eaton, Rachel Hanser, Karen Mack, Wendy A. Russell), Those Girls at the Beechman

Major Artist
Natalie Douglas, Human Heart; Stevie Songs; Freedom Songs 2016; A Very Natalie New Year; Others
*Sidney Myer, Live At The Beechman
Stacy Sullivan, A Night At The Troubadour

Spoken Word Artist
Karen Finley, Unicorn Gratitude Mystery
*Shawn Moninger, Because I Can 2: Second Addiction

Restaurant/Happy Hour Entertainer
*Bill Zeffiro, La Rivista
Clare Cooper, Don’t Tell Mama Happy Hour
Patrick Degennaro, Duplex Happy Hour

Piano Bar Instrumentalist
Michael Isaacs, Duplex, Brandy’s, Don’t Tell Mama
William Tn Hall, Don’t Tell Mama, Duplex
Brian Nash, Duplex
Darius Frowner, Duplex
*Rick Jensen, Brandy’s

Hanson Award
Ira Lee Collins

Piano Bar/Restaurant Singing Entertainer – Male
Paul Pilcz, Don’t Tell Mama
*Tommy J. Dose, Don’t Tell Mama
Adam Chandler, Duplex
Joe Ardizzone, Brandy’s
Bobby Belfry, Brandy’s

Piano Bar/Restaurant Singing Entertainer – Female
Tara Martinez, Don’t Tell Mama
*Michelle Dowdy, Don’t Tell Mama
Lauren Mufson, Brandy’s
Heidi Weyhmueller, Brandy’s
Laura Pavles, Don’t Tell Mama

Ruth Kurtzman Benefit Series Awards
Joseph Macchia/Cabaret Cares

In Memoriam
“Better Place”
Music and Lyrics by Tracy Stark
Sung by Julie Reyburn

Technical Director
*Collette Black
Armando Bravi
Adam Decarlo
Jason Ellis
Abby Judd

Musical Director
Rick Jensen
Daryl Kojak
*Tracy Stark
Steven Ray Watkins

Barry Kleinbort
*Lina Koutrakos
Mark Nadler

New York Debut – Male
Matt DiPasquale, Neither Here Nor There
*Tommy J. Dose, By.the.Book
Charlie Romo (a.k.a. Charlie Poveromo)

New York Debut – Female
*Amorika Amoroso, The Whore Next Door
Hanna Burke, Why Is Everyone Laughing? A Tribute To Madeline Kahn
Mary Sue Daniels, Straight Outta ‘Conda
Sallie Jo Hadley, Bustin’ Loose: The Liberation Of Sallie Jo Hadley

Major Recording
Mary Foster Conklin, Photographs
*Natalie Douglas, Human Heart
Tracy Stark, Shades Of Beautiful – The Tracy Stark Songbook

Lifetime Achievement Award
Michelle Lee

Recurring Series
It’s Just a Number (created, produced, and directed by Bobbie Horowitz)
*Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway (created and produced by Ricky Ritzel; staged and choreographed by Jay Rogers and Aaron Morishita)
Salon (Mark Janas, Founder, Artistic Director, Host; Tanya Moberly, Executive Producer)

Bernie Furshpan, This Is Your Night
Tom Gamblin, Metrostar Talent Challenge
*Bobbie Horowitz, It’s Just a Number
Nancy Witter, Nancy Witter’s Comedy Variety Series

Christine Andreas (Feinstein’s/54 Below)
Michael Feinstein (Feinstein’s/54 Below)
Donna McKechnie (Feinstein’s/54 Below)
Mark Nadler, Does This Room Make My Act Look Big? (Pangea)
*Carol Woods, Ain’t We Got Fun: The Music Of Richard Whiting (Metropolitan Room)

Male Vocalist
*Bob Diamond, The Gift Of Love
Richard Holbrook, Richard Sings Rodgers With A Lot Of Heart; Always December: A Holiday Musical Celebration
Jeff Macauley, Mwah! The Dinah Shore Show; It Was Me; Le Grand Tour
Stearns Matthews, Me And The Gersh-Twins
Jim Speake, Sweet Life, The Show

Female Vocalist
Celia Berk, Manhattan Serenade
Sally Darling, Totally Noël
*Meg Flather, Portraits; Carly And Me
Josephine Sanges, Haven’t We Met?; To Ann, With Love
Lisa Viggiano, Night In The City

Show of the Year
Marilyn in Fragments
Molly Pope in A Star Is Born
Midnight at The Never Get
The Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular


The 31st annual MAC Awards were held at BB King Blues Club and Grill (237 W. 42nd Street) on March 28th. The celebratory evening was produced by Julie Miller, directed by Lennie Watts, and featured musical direction from Tracy Stark. For more information, including news and events regarding upcoming acts of the night’s big winners, visit

Photo Credit: Maryann Lopinto