by Linda Amiel Burns
Scott Siegel’s 12th Annual Nightlife Awards honored performers from the worlds of cabaret, jazz and comedy at Town Hall on January 27, 2014.
The Nightlife Awards honors performers for excellence in these genres who play in music venues and clubs in New York City and environs voted on by various members of the press. This is the 12th year and the only awards ceremony where there are no acceptance speeches and the honorees perform to show why they were chosen. There were 10 Awards given this year and as producer Scott says, “instead of an Awards Show, we are giving you an ‘Awards Concert.’” Ian Herman served as Musical Director and Scott Coulter directed the proceedings.
One of the best things about the evening was host funny man and writer Bruce Villanch (wearing a pink T-shirt with ‘Eye Candy’ written across it) who kept the show moving with his offbeat humor telling show biz stories that had nothing to do with the Awards, but had the audience in stitches i.e. about meeting Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Taylor and others
The “Nightlife Legend Award” went to Dee Dee Bridgewater who just closed in her off-Broadway triumph Lady Day, a tribute to Billie Holiday. She performed “Good Morning, Heartache” (94 year old composer Ervin Drake was in the audience) and a jazz version of “A Foggy Day.”
The winners in the Jazz category:
Gretchen Parlato -Outstanding Female Jazz Vocalist – performed a rhythmic and haunting Brazilian tune with her husband accompanying her on drums.
William Blake – Outstanding Male Jazz Vocalist – sang “Chasing Strange” which showed off his strong vocals and performing ability.
Ben Allison & Darcy James Argue – Tied for Outstanding Jazz Instrumentalists. Ben is a renowned jazz bassist and played a number with his guitarist. Darcy was not able to attend.
The two winners in Comedy – Gina Brillon & Jimmy Failla – Male and Female Standup Comedian – livened up the evening. Each performed a short comic routine and it was clear why they were chosen as they both hit home runs. As the old saying goes, “dying is easy, comedy is hard.”
Winners in the Cabaret Category:
Laura Benanti – Outstanding Major Cabaret Vocalist. Laura was unable to attend.
Liam Forde – Outstanding Male Cabaret Vocalist – brought his musicians and back-up singers to perform a lively version of “Jubilee Time” clearly showing his performing talents
Stacy Sullivan – Outstanding Female Cabaret Vocalist – sang “That Old Black Magic” from her acclaimed Peggy Lee show demonstrating that she is as talented as she is beautiful. Stacy was accompanied by Jon Weber on piano and Steve Doyle on bass.
On hand were special guest stars who presented the awards including “Agent 99” Barbara Feldon, Stephanie J. Block and Charles Osgood. Others who performed included the rubbery mime Bill Irwin, Jason Robert Brown (singing “It All Fades Away” from his new show The Bridges of Madison County soon to open on Broadway), Nellie McKay did an embarrassing imitation of the late Eydie Gorme singing “Fly Me To The Moon,” Maxine Linehan performed a song from Chess and Carole J. Bufford (who will be at 54 Below in March) sang the Edit Piaff classic, “Non, je ne regrette rien.”
This year it was touch and go for quite a while as to whether or not the Nightlife Awards were going to happen. Scott lost one of his major sponsors and went to extraordinary lengths to raise funds to keep the Awards show alive. Scott said that this year’s show was made possible and produced by the many contributors listed in the Program. Congratulations to Scott Siegel for conceiving the Nightlife Awards, keeping it going, and for honoring many of the unsung heroes of cabaret, jazz and comedy for over a decade.
*Photos: Russ Weatherford
For more information on other presentations by Scott Siegel, including Broadway By The Year Series and Broadway Ballyhoo, visit: www.siegelpresents.com.