by: Sandi Durell
The second evening at the 29th NY Cabaret Convention celebrated Rosemary Clooney, Barbara Cook and Julie Wilson. Written and hosted by Deborah Grace Winer, a leading expert on the American Songbook, it was both instructive, and filled with some of the best performers in Cabaret and from Broadway paying tribute to the three iconic ladies of song. Deborah Grace has both a warm and humor-filled delivery that kept the evening beautifully flowing as she introduced each of the performers
The back up band exemplified that high level with John Oddo as musical director-pianist, Jay Leonhart on bass and Ray Marchica on drums. Beginning with Karrin Allyson, a uniquely expressive jazz vocalist, singing “Body and Soul,” Deborah’s introductory words captured Julie Wilson’s thoughts on a song – “. . . like meeting an old friend.” After some Rosie Clooney history, charming Linda Purl took the stage (in a fabulous dress!) to sing “Them There Eyes,” and later “My Ship” – always a great vocal flow.
Cook, the quintessential ingénue, embraced pop style later in life as Darius de Haas sang his heart out on “Song For You” – a true heartbreaker, returning again with “Sophisticated Lady.” Deborah refers to Barbara Cook as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ – a true statement, as she introduced Broadway’s exquisite soprano Laura Shoop to sing “Till There Was You,” later giving a great interpretation of “Vanilla Ice Cream” (from She Loves Me, with lyricist Sheldon Harnick looking on).
The mellow jazz tones of La Tanya Hall dove deep into “When Sunny Gets Blue” and opened Act 2 with “Just One of Those Things.” Natalie Douglas sang “Better With the Band” – special material written for Cook by her long time friend-musical director Wally Harper with David Zippel, and returning with “How Long Has This Been Going On.” The one and only Billy Stritch sat at the piano singing the sorrowful “Let Me Down Easy” and center stage later with “I Haven’t Got a Worry to My Name,” made popular by Rosie Clooney.
What made the three women unique was the fact that each had an early career that waned for many years until they reinvented themselves, their music and styles later in life. This is the magic of great talent. Example: Julie Wilson, one of the great pioneers, left the business when her mother became ill, went to nursing school returning home to care for her, and then re-launched herself in New York nightclubs. Last year’s Julie Wilson Award winner, Nicolas King, sang “From Here On In.” Broadway’s Kenita Miller wowed with “God Bless the Child” and again with pop theme song “And Then There’s Maude.”
Clooney left the business when she married Jose Ferrer and had five kids, got divorced, but remarried at age 70 to Dante DiPaolo, giving Deborah an opportunity to tell a particularly amusing tale – the wedding was celebrated with White Castle Burgers and Cincinnati BBQ Ribs! James Naughton’s deep and resonant tones gave voice to “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” and again on “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues.”
The always lovable Karen Ziemba gave a standout interpretation to the ditty “My Dog Loves Your Dog” (film, George White’s Scandals, 1934) and sang a compelling rendition of “Count Your Blessings.”
Jay Leonhart got into the act soloing with one of Rosie’s biggest hits “Hey There.”
When Tedd Firth walked out to sit at the piano, well, we knew it was time for the great one, the marvelous Marilyn Maye to appear to close the first act. And so she did, looking glamorous and glittery, leaving us wanting more after “I’m Still Here.”
As expected, Ms. Maye took the stage once again at the end of the evening giving pause to what Deborah quoted is great singing . . . “Listen, I want to tell you something,” as Marilyn launched into favorites “As Time Goes By,” “Secret O’ Life” and the meaningful “Here’s to Life.”
October 10, 2018 – Rose Hall Theatre at Jazz at Lincoln Center
Photos: Maryann Lopinto
What’s to come:
Thursday, October 11 – The Best of Jerry Herman, hosted by Klea Blackhurst
Friday, October 12 – The Night They Invented Champagne – Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, hosted by Jeff Harnar & Andrea Marcovicci