Closing Night at the NY Cabaret Convention

The Mabel Mercer Foundation’s 30th NY Cabaret Convention ended on 10/31 after four successful nights of music and song at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall.

 

Christina Holder & Amra-Faye Wright

 

by Linda Amiel Burns

 

For 30 years, the Mabel Mercer Foundation (founded by the late impresario Donald Smith) has presented and championed the art of cabaret.  His successor singer KT Sullivan was named Artistic Director in 2012 and has kept the flame alive for the past seven years. She hosted the closing night on Oct. 31, 2019 of a four night run at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall called “Thanks for the Memory: Celebrating 30 Years of Cabaret Conventions.” Ironically it was her birthday and she performed the perfect song cut from On A Clear Day “Wait Till We’re 65.” Then to celebrate the holiday, she performed “One Halloween” from  Applause.

 

KT Sullivan

The evening presented over two dozen vocalists ranging in age from 15 to eight decades, and celebrated the diversity and excitement of the great classic songs that are the staple of cabaret. Many were veterans of the craft and several singers were making their Cabaret Convention debuts. The show opened up with songstress Sandy Stewart (accompanied by her son famed jazz pianist Bill Charlap), singing “It Had To Be You” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” KT presented her with the Mabel Mercer Award for her illustrious career in cabaret and recording.

Sandy Stewart

Eric Yves Garcia

 

Shana Farr

Susie Mosher

 

The remarkable “house band” had Jon Weber on piano, Steve Doyle on Bass and Dave Silliman on drums. Some singers brought their own accompanists but failed to introduce them. I think it is important for singers to set up their material and it makes a difference for the audience. Todd Murray explained that he was celebrating the centennial of Nat King Cole and performed the lovely “That’s All.” Eric Yves Garcia sang a brilliantly arranged Nat Cole “Love Medley” that began with “When I Fall in Love” and featured snippets of many recognizable songs. The beautiful Shana Farr’s “Still Dream” (from Rise of the Gardians) was thrilling and had an ethereal feel as she explain that this song was for those who had forgotten to dream. Josephine Sanges talked about her children and that gave special meaning to a medley from Into The Woods that began with “Not While I’m Around.”  The comic Susie Mosher brought new meaning to “Cry Me a River” as she set it up with an hilarious story about a break up and the audience loved it.

Josephine Sanges

Allora Leonard

Beckie Menzie & Tom Michael

Gretchen Reinhagen

Anais Reno

Allora Leonard (age 15) scored with a wonderful rendition of “Shakin’ The Blues Away,” and Anais Reno dazzled with “I’m Just a Lucky So & So.” She was presented with the Adela & Larry Elow Award winning the American Songbook High School Competition. Chicago based Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael said that at a Cabaret Convention years ago, Donald Smith suggested they become a duo. They took this to heart and are now celebrating 20 years of singing together. With Beckie at the piano, they sang a heartwarming “Thanks for the Memory” with special lyrics written for the occasion. Gretchen Reinhagen beautifully built up “Maybe This Time,” from Cabaret, a song that Kander & Ebb gave to Kaye Ballard to record first.

 

Mark William

Celia Berk

Aaron Lee Battle

Margo Brown

Sean Harnkess, Marcus Simeone, Lina Kourtrakos

Tim Connell

 

The very talented Mark William who has made a quite a name for himself in the cabaret world this year, kept the Halloween theme going with a swinging and fun “Bewitched/Witchcraft Medley.” Celia Berk in a stunning black gown, scored with the dramatic “Haunted Heart.”  Aaron Lee Battle’s jazzy “Just In Time” hit the spot as well as Spencer Day’s toe-tapping “Bali Hai.”  Margo Brown performed a touching “Summer/Fall Medley” and Tim Connell, a strong “I Am What I Am.” Avery Sommers, performed the classic “Georgia” in Gospel style. Guitarist Sean Harkness played for Marcus Simeone and Lena Koutrakos as they sang “With a Little Help From My Friends” in perfect harmony.

Avery Sommers

Tim Sullivan

 

Christian Holder

Amra-Faye Wright

 

Two outstanding moments was Tim Sullivan, the brother of KT, who came on stage with a cowboy hat and guitar said “he felt a little out of place” in this venue. However, he gave variety to the evening and was wonderfully engaging with a masterful tongue twisting song called “I’ve Been Everywhere” and it was terrific. Christian Holder, the nephew of the late Geoffrey Holder, was a star of the Joffrey Ballet for many years and now performs shows in London. He sang a lilting medley of “Rap, Tap on Wood” with “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” in an elegant black tie and tails. Then the gorgeous Amra-Faye Wright entered in white tie and tails and the two sang and danced an extraordinary and graceful “Me and My Shadow.”

 

Lumiri Tubo

 

Managing Director Rick Meadows came on stage to mention the cabaret luminaries that have passed this year, including two esteemed musical directors Tex Arnold and John Oddo. He announced that Lumiri Tubo would close the show with a song by the late Carol Hall called “Glory of God,” an emotional ending to a remarkable four nights showcasing many of cabarets finest performers, several up and coming newcomers, and some of NY’s best musicians. Congrats to one and all and we are all looking forward to the 31st Cabaret Convention in 2020!

Photos: Maryann Lopinto

www.mabelmercer.org

 

 

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