By Andrew Poretz . . . 

Photos: Melissa Griegel


– – Lee Roy Reams – Honoree Lifetime Achievement Award – –

On Sunday June 12, the stars converged at the Cutting Room to honor the great Lee Roy Reams with a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the nonprofit American Popular Song Society (“APSS”), with a fine presentation of songs, stories, and anecdotes about working with Mr. Reams. There were also pre-recorded and recited love letters to Lee Roy from some of the performers who could not be present at the Gala, which overlapped with the Tony Awards ceremony which was being held a mile north at Radio City Music Hall. 

Marilyn Maye, Lee Roy Reams, Penny Fuller, Walter Willison, Jim Brochu. Ken Fallin

Despite the few absentees, a veritable Who’s Who of the Broadway and Cabaret world appeared, including past Tony Award nominees and winners such as Melissa Errico, Penny Fuller, Beth Fowler, and Karen Ziemba . . . to name just a few. (Lee Roy Reams was nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role in 1991, for 42nd Street). 

The evening kicked off promptly at 5:30 pm after a pre-show cocktail and canape schmoozefest. Led by musical director and host Michael Lavine, who was also the sole accompanist for all performers (except where indicated), singer Scott Coulter was first at the mic, performing a clever “Hello, Dolly!” (Jerry Herman) parody in the form of “Hello, Lee Roy!” Mr. Reams, seated in the center of the audience, beamed, rose to applaud every performer, and provided an endless supply of funny, often raunchy (and unprintable) bon mot responses to the stories and accolades of the performers. 

  • Lee Roy Reams

The beautiful Melissa Errico breathlessly relayed how Lee Roy convinced her to do cabaret: “I lost my cabaret virginity thanks to Lee Roy!” Her rendition of “Look to the Rainbow” (Burton Lane/Yip Harburg) was quite lovely. 

Michael-Demby Cain, a veteran of eight Broadway shows and the Metropolitan Opera presentation of Porgy and Bess, sang a wild, high-speed rendition of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess (George and Ira Gershwin), before telling his story of “switched roles” with Mr. Reams. “I had no idea that I was Black!” 

Next up was actor Tony Danza, celebrated for the television shows “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss? Mr. Danza, who starts a Café Carlyle residency this week, is a surprisingly effective interpreter of songs. His trademark Brooklyn accent disappears when he sings. With a sensitive delivery and a light touch where needed, the one-time light heavyweight boxer evokes a more macho Barry Manilow. 

Beth Fowler, a Broadway star most recently known as Sister Ingalls on Orange is the New Black, claimed her stories of a long friendship with Mr. Reams weren’t tellable here, to which the star exclaimed, “We’re all over 21, honey!” The youthful looking Ms. Fowler performed Cole Porter’s whimsical song about a sad, social-climbing bivalve, “The Tale of the Oyster.” Tonight, the world was Lee Roy Reams’ oyster. 

Funny jazz cat Danny Bacher, a singer, composer and soprano sax whiz, performed “the first jazz song,” the 1917 “At the Jazz Band Ball” (Nick LaRocca and Larry Shields; lyrics added by Johnny Mercer in 1950). Danny’s swinging style brought the energy way up.

Actor and playwright Jim Brochu, a large, bearded fellow with tremendous presence and kind, twinkling eyes, performed a swell song parody that somehow rhymed “Twinkle toes” with “size 14 Capezios.” 

Lewis Stadlen once played Horace Vandergelder to Mr. Reams’ Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! He remarked, “I had to ask Lee Roy to marry me eight times a week. No one looked more comfortable in that red dress than Lee Roy Reams!” Mr. Stadlen sang a fine version of “You’ll Never Know” (Harry Warren/Mack Gordon). 

Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba delivered “Before the Parade Passes By,” another Hello Dolly! song, with great panache. Beloved cabaret performer Steve Ross followed, accompanying himself on “Look Over There” (Jerry Herman), one of several songs from La Cage aux Folles played tonight.

Celebrated actor and drag performer Charles Busch, singing as himself, performed the poignant “If Love Were All” (Noel Coward). “When this show began, I was young!” exclaimed Mr. Busch, who shares an August 23rd birthday with Mr. Reams. 

Broadway and cabaret star Karen Mason, wearing a dazzling white suit, kicked off a series of increasingly terrific highlights for the final section of the event. The star, who worked extensively with composers Kander and Ebb, performed a rendition of their “Cabaret” with special lyrics for the bridge, with a strong vocal and a lot of love. 

Several legends of cabaret and Broadway closed out the event. There was Sidney Meyer, with his priceless rendition of “It’s So Nice to Have a Man Around the House,” followed by the astonishing, 94-year-old Marilyn Maye (that’s not a typo). Ms. Maye, who still does kicks while singing, performed “Today” (Jerry Herman) with parody lyrics she wrote in the taxi en route to the show. The musical highlight of the evening was the trio of KT Sullivan (who heads up the Mabel Mercer Foundation), singer/musical director to all the other stars Jeff Harnar, and “long-haired genius” (as KT calls him) Jon Weber providing piano accompaniment and some vocal assistance. Together, they performed a flawless, harmony-rich rendition of “Applause” (Charles Strouse/Lee Adams) with precision timing. 

Tony Award nominee Penny Fuller, an original cast member of Applause, performed “I’m Alive” from that show. The vibrant Ms. Fuller was in fine voice, with a terrific delivery reflecting her decades of stage experience. Walter Willison, with his beautiful baritone, sang ‘I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles

Theatrical caricaturist Ken Fallin, the heir apparent to Al Hirschfield, presented Lee Roy with a framed caricature, before the star took the stage to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Reams, who lost Bob Donahue, his partner of 50 years, only a few years ago, told the touching story of grudgingly learning Bob’s favorite song, “If” (David Gates and Bread). When Steve Ross found himself oddly compelled to play the song at an event after Bob’s death, it was, for Lee Roy, a sign from Bob. For a spirited finale, Mr. Reams sang “The Best of Times is Now” (from La Cage aux Folles), bringing all cast members still at The Cutting Room on stage to join in.


The show, completely sold out well in advance, was produced by APSS Board members Sandi Durell and Marilyn Lester. The event was a smashing success both artistically and as an APSS fundraiser. For more information about the American Popular Song Society, visit 

The American Popular Song Society’s Gala Celebration Honoring Lee Roy Reams took place June 12 at The Cutting Room (44 East 32nd Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). 

Photos: Melissa Griegel