by Marilyn Lester
The “This Is Your Night” series, hosted by Metropolitan Room Managing Partner, Bernie Furshpan, profiles an honoree who has “contributed in some significant way to the NYC Entertainment Industry.” With a packed house, and a cavalcade of some 30 heavy-hitting Cabaret and Broadway stars performing, Russ Weatherford, the man of the evening, was lovingly “outed” as an individual who has gone above and beyond mere “significant contribution.” Russ was revealed as a man who’d had an important, positive and often profound impact on the lives and careers of almost everyone in the room – without exaggeration. Heard over and over again were descriptives such as “generous,” “giving,” “passionate,” and “loving,” to name a very few.
Under Musical Direction by Ian Herman, a variety of songs unfolded. Three tunes specifically requested by Russ – each with deep personal meaning – were by long-time friend, the composer Larry Kerchner (who also gave a moving spoken reminiscence). Kerchner’s “Old Friends” was sung by Sandi Durell, and “A Life Without End” by Dean Regan (with Tex Arnold on the piano for both). Eric Michael Gillett performed Kerchner’s “Somewhere In Time.”
Steve Ross played and sang the tune he was playing the first time he met Russ: “Tuscaloosa’s Calling Me…” Sullivan mater familias, Elizabeth, in an Eric Rudy gown, sang Elizabeth Browning’s “Sonnet 21” (sung by daughter, KT, at the Weatherford-Rudy wedding). Carole Bufford and Shana Farr sang two Weatherford picks: “House of the Rising Sun,” and “Love For Sale,” respectively, while a complement of beautiful women sang beautiful songs: Kristine Mills (“Meditation”), Randie Levine-Miller (“Hey Old Friend’), Karen Oberlin Hajdu (“A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square”), Karen Wyman (“If“), Merrill Stone (“I Told Every Little Star”), Karen Akers (“Where Have You Been?”) and Natalie Douglas (“The Human Heart”).
Comedy was a featured part of the tribute. Barry Kleinbort delivered a laugh-out-loud remembrance, while comic lyrics to well-known tunes were sung (or rapped) by Jamie deRoy, Scott Siegel, Marya Coburn, Tom Waters and Bob Blume. Jay Rogers and Aaron Morishita as Indian maidens, sang “On the Miss-iss-inewa,” and Sidney Myer offered “I May Never Go Home Anymore.” Joe Sirola slipped into his Alfred P. Doolittle character for “With A Little Bit Of Luck,” and “Get Me To The Church On Time,” and Raissa Katona Bennett sang “Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind.”
Billy Stritch and Marilyn Maye were heard on tape (they’re performing on a cruise ship). Nancy Opel led a sing-a-long with “It’s My Party” and Valerie Lemon sang Ervin Drake’s “I Believe,” a special song that transcendentally linked Russ’s late composer friend Drake with his own father. David Austin sang and played a custom-themed song he wrote for the occasion, while the finale of this remarkable evening was reserved for husband, Eric Rudy, whose inspired and impassioned “Impossible Dream,” left no dry eye in the house.
The last component of the evening should have been the commemorative gift presented to Russ by Bernie Furshpan. But in true Weatherford fashion, Russ had a gift of his own to present: the surprise of an extraordinary work of art for Eric, an exquisite painting he’d co-created with artist Christel Ibsen entitled “Circle of Love.” Thus ended –all too soon – an evening in which endless adjectives could be applied, such as magical, meaningful, profound, stunning, wonderful, brilliant, and on and on. It was all that, and more.
This is Your Night! Russ Weatherford, May 12, 6:00 PM
Metropolitan Room, 34 W 22nd St, 212-206-0440, www.metropolitanroom.com
Filmed by Michael Stever
Photos Maryann Lopinto
***Special Thanks to Bernie & Joanne Furshpan and The Metropolitan Room