by Linda Amiel Burns
The Mabel Mercer Foundation’s 28th Cabaret Convention had its gala opening at Rose Hall on Oct. 16, 2017 emceed by Award Winning Artistic Director, KT Sullivan.
The evening could not have had a better opening performer than the legendary Marilyn Maye making it nearly impossible for anyone else to follow her. This was her 13th appearance at the Cabaret Convention and she was accompanied by the great Tedd Firth on piano, Steve Doyle on bass, and Daniel Glass on drums, Marilyn opened with a lilting arrangement of “It’s A Most Unusual Day” followed by a dazzling Mercer Medley that ended with “Come Rain or Come Shine” as only she can sing it. The audience gave her a standing ovation,
Next up was newcomer, 18-year-old Greg Gropper, who studied with Marilyn Maye and others, and is headed to University of Michigan to begin his Freshman year. After performing “Come Fly With Me/Fly Me To The Moon,” there was no doubt that Greg has an exciting musical future ahead of him, especially after he sang, “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton. Another talented 18 year old, Lyric Peterson, was discovered by KT in Durango, Colorado and is the winner of the Jim and Elizabeth Sullivan Ticket to Broadway. Her strong voice rang out through Rose Hall in a heartfelt “God Bless The Child.” As a change of pace, next up was veteran performer Adam B. Shapiro, making his Cabaret Convention debut, with a funny take-off on “Pennies From Heaven.” When a soldier, who has been away for three years, is presented with a newborn son, his wife explains that as “Bennies From Heaven.”
Broadway star Luba Mason (Chicago, Jekyll & Hyde) explained that her family is from Slovakia and at KT’s request she sang a moving “Croatian Folk Song” accompanied by her band featuring her music director Felipe Fournier on Vibraphone. Then she performed a slow and impressive “Love For Sale” that showed off her powerful voice. Allan Harris was a delightful “surprise guest” who sang Ervin Drake’s emotional “It Was a Very Good Year” accompanying himself on the guitar. He mentioned that it was a thrill when he sang the song some years ago at a Cabaret Convention in front of the late composer. Allan has been working on a show “Cross That River” for many years and sang the title song. Happy to announce that the show is having a production next month at 59 East 59 Theaters. Carole J. Bufford was surprised when KT presented her with the Donald F. Smith Award made possible by Adela & Larry Elow. This young performer has made a name for herself in a short time and you can see why with her dynamic interpretation of “Chicago” (that toddling town). Accompanied by Ian Herman, she closed out the first act with a heart throbbing rendition of “The Man I Love.”
Cabaret star and past recipient of the Donald F. Smith Award, Karen Oberlin opened the 2nd Act with the parody patter song “Hamlet” – a difficult jazz tune but she made it work. Her arrangement of “Night and Day” paired with “The Night We Called It A Day” was thrilling and it was clear why the NY Times called her one of the “premier interpreters of the Great American Songbook.” Danny Bacher was also noted by the NY Times as “a prodigiously talented musical preservationist” and his talent was evident when he sang “If It’s Love you Want, Baby It’s Me” and then “Lucky to be Me” interspersed with a clarinet solo.
Corinna Sowers Adler brought her teenage students, Elizabeth Nucci, Grace Carlin, Alex DiFilippo, Luke Surretsky on to the stage to provide back up to her beautifully sung and meaningful “Children Will Listen/Imagine.” Bistro Award winner Joshua Lance Dixon charmed us with a brilliant “New York Medley.” This year is Dean Martin’s centennial and when researching Dean for his Rat Pack Show, was happy to learn how much he had in common with the great singer and performed a bang-up “Everybody Loves Somebody” giving it his own twist. MAC Award winner Tanya Moberly, accompanied by Ritt Henn on bass, performed an amusing rendition of the Ricky Lee Jones 1979 hit, ChuckE’s In Love.” Jacob Storms is a multi faceted performer who can be seen as Serge in season 1 & 2 of Steven Soderbergh’s Amazon Series Red Oaks. With Jon Weber at the piano, he sang a delightful arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.”
KT Sullivan left the podium, where she was emceeing the evening, to sing a beautiful Cole Porter Medley of “After You/So In Love/Wunderbar” in her lovely soprano voice. Tommy Dose won a MAC Award for his debut cabaret show and also won for Outstanding Piano Bar entertainer twice. With Gerry Dieffenbach at the piano and back-up singers Tara Martinez and Paul Scott Plicz, he performed an exciting “Once Upon a Time.
The Multi-Award winning singer Vivian Reed was presented with the Mabel Mercer Award for her remarkable career. In a stunning, sexy dress, she sang “Signed, Sealed, Delivered/Higher and Higher/Up Where We Belong” and Rose Hall was rocking to the beat. Ms. Reed will be at 54 Below on Nov. 8 with her Lena Horne Tribute. There couldn’t have been a better ending to the first evening of the Cabaret Convention that showcased well-known cabaret performers along with up and coming talent. That is really what these evenings are all about. Kudos to KT and the staff of the Mabel Mercer Foundation as we all look forward to the next three evenings (Oct 17, 18, 19) of fabulous entertainment.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto