Cabaret Review by Stephen Hanks
When it comes to the number of award shows staged in a given season, the film, TV and recording industry no longer leave New York Cabaret in the stardust.
Kicking off a 10-week period during which the Big Apple cabaret scene will now feature four award ceremonies (including the first-ever BroadwayWorld.com Awards on February 21, the 28th annual Bistro Awards on March 4, and the 27th annual MAC Awards on March 21), the 11th annual Nightlife Awards (voted on by a select group of cabaret and nightlife writers and critics) was staged at The Town Hall on January 14 and, for the most part, was a pleasantly entertaining event. Co-produced by Max Weintraub and nightlife impresario Scott Siegel (Broadway by the Year, 11 O'Clock Numbers at 11 O'Clock, Broadway Ballyhoo, et al), this year's show featured the usual mix of nightclub singing legends, budding cabaret stars, solid veterans of musical theater, outstanding jazz vocalists, stellar instrumentalists, and quirky comedians, almost all delivering the goods under the smooth direction of Scott Coulter.
Holding the three-hour show together was the always amusing overgrown teddy bear Bruce Vilanch, who was hosting his fourth Nightlife Awards show. Vilanch is probably one of the few hosts in the world who can get away with wearing a t-shirt that reads "My Pen Is Huge," with the image of a writing implement conveniently separating the middle two words, lest Mayor Michael Bloomberg send in the thought police. Of course, the audience got the joke immediately, but with the podium covering the lower half of Vilanch's ample body, the actual size of his, er, pen could not be determined.
What could be determined almost immediately is that Nightlife Legend honoree Leslie Uggams is a savvy choice to play the legendary Lena Horne in the upcoming Broadway show about the late singing goddess. With the accomplished Don Rebic at the piano, Uggams--whose elegant hair style made her look like a beautiful Egyptian Queen on an ancient hieroglyph--opened both the show and Act II with stylish takes on the Horne standards, "Love" and "Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home."
The dapper Mark Nadler (Outstanding Cabaret Performer)-as he did at the October at the Cabaret Convention-performed his rousing Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht beer hall anthem, "The Bilbao Song" (from the musical Happy End), which was part of his recent 54 Below show, I'm a Stranger Here Myself. Nadler announced that the highly-praised show will be getting another life at the York Theater in April. Emily Bergl was up next and while she looked hot in a smoking red dress, it was difficult to discern what attitude she was trying to convey on the Gus Kahn lyric "It Had to Be You." Awarded as "Outstanding Musical Comedy Performer," Bergl seemed to be going for a combination of cute and snarky, but the bit fell flat. I admit I didn't catch Bergl's well-received Cafe Carlyle show NY, I Love You, but from what I've seen so far in variety show snippets her appeal among other critics is a bit of a mystery. The jury is still out for me, but I'm willing to be convinced. (Please click on Page 2 below to continue.)