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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Night of 1,000 Super Troupers: the Bistro Awards

The 27th Annual Bistro Awards presentation was the first I've attended and I found it a total embarrassment... of riches! Unfortunately for me, although I was thoroughly enjoying the generous parade of entertainment, I had to leave before it all wrapped up and consequently missed two major Awards winners: Dee Dee Bridgewater (as in one over troubled) and Melissa Manchester. (And you don't know how they talked about her! (Only good things, though, I hear.))

My friend, novelist Kevin Scott Hall, who is also cabaret columnist for Edge New York and writes reviews for Bistro Awards on-line (, told me that Dee Dee Bridgewater gave great show. "She had missed her plane but got in just in time to come directly to the Bistros," he told me confidentially. "She was wearing sweats and had her little dog on a leash, but she tore up the place with her two songs. Then Marvin Hamlisch accompanied Melissa. She was great ...and very gracious."

Kevin is a Bistro Awards committee member, and he was also a presenter last night along with the show's associate producer, Richard Skipper, and such fabulous icons of entertainment as Annie Ross, Marvin Hamlish and especially journalist Liz Smith, still looking great at 89. "I'm the only intellectual ever fired by The New York Post," Liz quipped, modesty be damned!

Ms Smith then introduced her friend, entertainment legend Kaye Ballard, winner of this year's Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award. Regretfully, Special K Kate opted to appear beamed to us, via Skype, from L.A., still as sharp and funny as ever at 86. She will be at Feinstein's in June, presumably not by satellite or holographic image.

Indeed, all legendary ladies present were joys to behold -- and can we, any of us, help but have a special flow of love for the show biz idols with whom we grew up? And so the love flowed, as did two bottles of lite beer over glasses full of ice for me, and we were equally awed by a new generation of talent creating a new and exciting vibe permeating the cozy theater at the Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea.

Early on, Terese Genecco performed, as did Shaynee Rainbolt and Nicolas King, all of whom I previously experienced at one of Genecco's Tuesday night shows at Iridium recently. It was a treat to enjoy them all over again. Amy Beth Williams' coloratura soprano, stage presence and interpretive skills always delight. As does Justin Sayre's foppish comic persona. (I mean, it is a persona?)

"As a gay, Justin has excelled at scarf placement, devilish quips, and a healthy, but firm, love of the American musical," reads his bio; his show at the Duplex has been going strong for over two years for good reason. Aaron Weinstein's comedy mixed with violin virtuosity won me over, as did the faux tacky-lounge act of Max and Maxine, somewhat in the tradition of Bette Midler's Vicki Eydie and Kiki & Herb.

Jim David's hosting was wry and irreverant, an act in and of itself. Jon Weber's musical direction was consistently divinely inspired. Always good to see Don't Tell Mama's Sidney Myer (here as announcer). And producer Sherry Eaker pulled off a Monday night miracle, looking cool, calm, elegant and fetching in a black, diaphanous gown with sparkling embroidery and thong; something that Cher might wear when feeling sheepish. Ms Eaker had much reason to feel good about herself.

So, what wasn't to like about this Awards ceremony? Not a thing if you're asking me. It was a thoroughly entertaining one fueled by inter-generational star power, and that energy is what keeps New York cabaret an essential, vital stage medium. In terms of the onslaught of entertainment, joy of performing and the length of the event, it was a lot of bang for your buck.

Last night, the medium was indeed the message. And what a merry message it was indeed!

Below, a very 1984 Melissa Manchester on Solid Gold, featuring The Solid Gold Dancers.

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