Amra-Faye Wright

by: Linda Amiel Burns


The Cabaret Convention’s final two evenings at Town Hall celebrated the works of 4 composers, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Marvin Hamlisch and Vernon Duke.


Karen Mason


The Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Cabaret Convention of 2015 finished up with two evenings celebrating four legendary songwriters and composers. On Thursday, October 15th “Life Is a Cabaret” paid tribute to the brilliant team of Kander & Ebb. On the last night of this 4 evening marathon, Friday, Oct 16th, we heard the songs of Marvin Hamlisch in “What I Did For Love” and Vernon Duke in “Taking a Chance on Love.”


Marilyn Maye



Karen Mason, Penny Fuller, Robert Creighton, Amra-Faye Wright









Life Is A Cabaret – The Songs of Kander & Ebb – 10/15/15

Hosted by Karen Mason        

Directed by Barry Kleinbort

The Cast: Jim Brochu, Robert Creighton, Penny Fuller, Linda Koutrakos, Sterns Matthews, Marilyn Maye, Sally Mayes, T. Oliver Reid, Steve Ross, Lauren Stanford, Sandy Stewart, Amra-Fay Wright, Karen Ziemba.




Steve Ross

John Kander & Fred Ebb were introduced in 1962 by music publisher Tommy Valando and wrote together successfully for over 5 decades with hit musicals such as Chicago, Cabaret, Flora the Red Menace, Zorba, 70 Girls 70, The Act, The Rink, and more.


Karen Ziemba


Jim Brochu


Robert Creighton









This was an evening of showstoppers, particularly Amra-Faye Wright’s performance of “City Lights” as she donned a red sequined hat and danced with two male dancers as back up. Zorba was represented by terrific performances by Jim Brochu, Lina Koutrakas, Steve Ross and Sally Mayes. Sandy Stewart accompanied by her son Bill Charlap received a standing ovation after performing “My Coloring Book,” a song she sang on The Perry Como Show, and from Chicago “My Own Best Friend.” Other tunes from that show were well delivered by T. Oliver Reid’s impressive Razzle Dazzle, host Karen Mason’s “All That Jazz” and Robert Creighton (recently starring in the York’s Cagney) incredible “Mr. Cellophane.” Penny Fuller sang several songs from Cabaret saying that she understudied the part of Sally Bowles in the show and went on over 100 times. The surprise guest was the Tony Award winning singer/dancer Karen Ziemba, who sang songs from Steel Pier, a show that Kander & Ebb wrote for her. The show closed with the remarkable Marilyn Maye singing a dramatic “Maybe This Time” and getting the audience on its feet for her vibrant “New York, New York.”




Klea Blackhurst



Carol Woods (Jon Weber on piano)










Taking a Chance On/What I Did For Love – 10/16/15

The Music of Vernon Duke & Marvin Hamlisch          Hosted by Klea Blackhurst

The Cast: Matt Baker, Raissa Katona Bennett, Alexis Cole, Scott Coulter, Shana Farr, Liam Forde, Eric Yves Garcia, Eric Michael Gillett, Eva Kantor, Valerie lemon Heather MacRae, Nancy McCall, Tammy McCann, Marieann Meringolo, Shawn Ryan, Carol Woods. The Cabaret Convention wound up on a high note with the music of two brilliant composers with Klea Blackhurst serving as a charming and funny host.


Raissa Katona Bennett


Shawn Ryan


Vernon Duke (1903-1969)

The first act concentrated on the music of Vernon Duke (born Vladimir Dukelsky) and Klea said that it was his friend George Gershwin who suggested he change his name to Vernon Duke, but continued to write classical music under his Russian name until 1955. One of his most famous songs “Taking A Chance on Love” was sung by Australian pianist/singer Matt Baker and the other “Autumn in NY”( which he wrote both music and lyrics), was sung by Chicago’s Tammy McCann in her rich jazz vocal style. Memorable was Alexis Cole at the piano, singing “April In Paris” and Eric Yves Garcia’s “I Can’t Get Started With You.” Nancy McCall beautifully sang “Round About” from one of Duke’s failed musicals, “Sweet Bye & Bye.” With lyrics by Ogden Nash. Shawn Ryan made a splash in a flowered suit and performed one of Duke’s best “I Like The Likes of You” and Klea performed “Not a Care in the World” from Banjo Eyes (1941).



Nancy McCall


Alexis Cole


Valerie Lemon, Eva Kantor
















Marvin Hamlisch (1944-2012)

Klea opened with “Nobody Does It Better” and certainly no one was more prolific and won more awards than Marvin Hamlisch.



Liam Forde


He married Terre Blair in 1989 and she was in the audience and introduced. Marvin died during the out of town tryout of The Nutty Professor and Klea was in the show and sang a very ironic and moving “While We Still Have The Time.” Eric Michael Gillett was in Sweet Smell of Success and was terrific performing two songs from the show. Valerie Lemon performed a song that was cut from the show “That’s How I Said Goodbye,” to be included in the planned revival. A terrific moment occurred when Valerie, whose daughter is finishing up at Julliard, and Eva Kantor, a new mom, sang the tender “A Mother’s Voice” (lyrics by The Bergmans). It was an impossible task to honor Marvin properly in such a short time, but there was a “sampling” of some of his great material. The talented Liam Forde did a sensational medley of songs from They’re Playing Our Song; Heather MacRae’s version of “Through The Eyes of Love” was remarkable. Scott Coulter gave me chills singing, “The Last Time I Felt Like This” from the film, Same Time, Next Year. Marieann Meringolo made “The Way We Were” her own as did Raissa Katona Bennett singing “Ordinary Miracles.” The amazing Carol Woods closed out the evening with “What I Did For Love” from A Chorus Line with the Broadway By The Year Chorus of young hopefuls backing her up.

This year’s Cabaret Convention featured 63 performers and 51 musicians! Many thanks to Artistic Director KT Sullivan and The Mabel Mercer Foundation for continuing the late founder Donald Smith’s mission to showcase these incredible talents, and make the public aware of these great singers and songs.

For more info on The Mabel Mercer Foundation

Photos: Maryann Lopinto