review: 22nd new york cabaret convention night 1

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The 22nd New York Cabaret Convention Night 1

Produced by Donald F. Smith
Hosted by Andrea Marcovicci
Production stage manager Rick Meadows
Featuring Liz Callaway, Colleen McHugh, Jennifer Sheehan, Barbara Carroll, Sidney Myer, Christine Andreas, Sylvia McNair, Bill Charlap/Sandy Stewart, Craig Rubano, Corky Hale, Steve Ross, and Emily Bergl.
Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th Street
production web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
Thursday October 20, 2011

Plans and playbills for live performances of this kind must be thrown out the window.  Or better said: the best laid plans and best typeset cast lists are subject to job conflicts (Karen Mason is held by rehearsals in Chicago) and surgery recovery (producer and traditional host Donald F. Smith recovering from a hip replacement sends a charming letter read by his associate Rick Meadows and hosting duties are assumed by Andrea Marcovicci not scheduled to appear until Friday) or absences not addressed at all (Christine Ebersole is not in the house as advertised).  Additions to the original “set list” (all performers are listed in order above spelling courtesy of Sorokoff’s coverage at Broadway World) are marvelous.  All present presented the breadth and width and health of the American cabaret tradition.

Barbara Carroll. Image by Stephen Sorokoff.

Liz Callaway enchants with lyric patter playing with Sondheim: “Another hundred lyrics just flew out of my brain” then makes your heart swoon with “Make Someone Happy”.  Colleen McHugh rips the comedic roof off the joint and riffs with KT Sullivan (another Thursday night surprise) on Edith Piaf‘s “Mon Dieu”.  Young and lovely Jennifer Sheehan lilts a few standards.  And on and on.  Barbara Carroll, in all her physical delicacy, blasts then solemnly, sweetly sways “My Funny Valentine” — offering up pauses and placements and then making it all her own.  Carroll introduces a version of Rodger and Hart‘s “Who Cares?” as a tribute to Mr. Smith, who simply mentioned to her that was not performed enough these days, which she took, she tells us, as a gentle request.  (I immediately think of the possible throughline from Judy Garland‘s Carnegie Hall set list, and Smith’s presence in the hall that night in 1961, but this may be coincidence. As with all cabaret associations in this vein, I am entertained.)  Sydney Myer goofs around with lyrics (evoking for me Moe, one of the Stooges) and the first act is rounded out by Christine Andreas flooring me with “La Vie en Rose” in French.

Bill Charlap and Sandy Stewart. Image by Stephen Sorokoff.

The second act was similarly layered — Sylvia McNair does “Everybody Says Don’t” and a bit of Antonio Carlos Jobim; Craig Rubano croons through a few standards; Corky Hale rips through “You’re Getting to be a Habit With Me” and “I Want to Be Happy”.  Steve Ross tickles the ivories.  For my money, the surprise and delight of the evening comes half way through the second act of the program — the son and mother team of Bill Charlap and Sandy Stewart.  Their double barreled low-key driving Shirley Horn influenced “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” makes me yearn and hurt and sing all at once.

So laughter, tears, enchantment, surprise.  I can’t wait to hear and see what tonight’s program has in store for me.

© Martha Wade Steketee (October 21, 2011)

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