The 29th New York Cabaret Convention (Presented by the Mabel Mercer Foundation) - New York City Article
The 29th New York Cabaret Convention (Presented by the Mabel Mercer Foundation) Follow @nyccitiview
The 29th New York Cabaret Convention
Presented by the Mabel Mercer Foundation
Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall
Broadway at 60th St, New York
Tuesday October 9 through Friday October 12
How well I remember my first Cabaret Convention: it was back in the ‘90s, when this institution itself was just a few years old, and still situated in the Town Hall. I brought along a certain co-ed as my date, and while I couldn’t tell you exactly who I heard on that first time, I do remember that in those early years, Donald Smith, who founded the Mabel Mercer Foundation and produced and hosted the convention, tended to program each evening like a marathon. In fact, it felt something like what Cast Party at Birdland does today: there was a kind of rambling, all-inclusive, epic randomness to the four evenings. My date announced that she’d had enough by intermission, but I was hooked. Some performers were awesome, a few were awful, and maybe a couple were predictable, but there was always that thrill of hearing something new and wonderful that you’d never heard before.
It’s a whole new convention these days, now being run by the Foundation’s Madame Chairwoman, KT Sullivan, and occasional guest producer-hosts (like Deborah Grace Winer), who keep most of the evenings under two hours - long enough for any but the most patient and extreme devotees and aficionados. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still look forward to hearing some new talent, especially among from the much younger set, whose parents weren’t even dating when the first convention was held in 1989.
The opening night salvo (Tuesday, October 9), traditionally hosted by Miss Sullivan herself, is always top-loaded with grade A talent of multiple generations (Marissa Mulder, Carole Bufford, Sandy Stewart) - while this year we will be also be introduced to Jaedyn Hanna (age 17) from The Caymans, and Gustavo Palma (18) from Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
Wednesday (October 10) honors three all-time colossal divas, Rosemary Clooney, Barbara Cook, and Julie Wilson (and hosted by Ms. Winer). The main attraction this evening is that, quite clearly, phone calls were made and favors were called in, because this year the second night has more celebrity firepower than we’ve seen on the stage in many a season: Karrin Allyson, Rebecca Luker, James Naughton, Emily Skinner, and honoring her legendary mother-in-law Rosemary Clooney, Debby Boone. (These are all expensive cover charges at Feinstein’s and Bridland.)
The final two nights are songbook evenings, centered around composers and lyricists for whom a single evening is hardly enough (but at least a good start): Jerry Herman (on Thursday October 11), who might be the single most under-appreciated (though hardly under-compensated or under-sung) songwriter living today (as hosted by Klea Blackhurst), and Alan Jay Lerner (on Friday October 12), whose centennial is being celebrated this year (as hosted by Andrea Marcovicci and Jeff Harnar).
Something about me misses those early, wild-and-woolly days, but I have to admit that, in my advanced middle age (don’t snicker!) I’m much more comfortable with the current policy, in which every artist has earned the explicit approval of Madame Chairwoman. And, I have to say, this approach is a lot more pleasing to my current guests.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)