Cabaret Scenes Benefit
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors
In 1995, the late Darrell Henline, former editor of After Dark, Cue and The SoHo Weekly News, published Cabaret Scenes Magazine, the first and only magazine celebrating his fierce passion for the world of cabaret. Working with Darrell in those early years was Keith Meritz, MD, editor-in-chief Peter Leavy and Frank Dain.
Twenty-one years later, Darrell is gone, Peter Leavy is now publisher of the magazine, Frank Dain is the editor-in-chief, and last year, we lost the magazine's first cover girl, Julie Wilson. Yet Darrell's vision for a magazine saluting this intimate world of cabaret remains. On Aug. 24, presented by Joseph Macchia, this evening's benefit at the buzzing Metropolitan Room boosted the magazine's coffers and treated the audience to a high-spirited lineup of songs by 20 of cabaret's best. Frank Dain served as a smooth genial host.
At the piano, musical director, Yasuhiko Fukuoka, impressively accompanied a variety of singers, starting with the ebullient Lee Roy Reams belting, "It's Today," from Mame, a show he knows quite well. Willowy and sophisticated, Karen Akers effectively delivered a "Reynosa," a bittersweet look back in time by Amanda McBroom.
Two of cabaret's newer award-winning performers included Josephine Bianco's sweet, "When I Fall in Love," and Minda Larsen scored with "This Moment." Those "Sin Twisters," Penny Fuller and Anita Gillette, proved that experience and know-how do nail a song in their wistful duet of, "Once Upon a Time." Catherine Dupuis skillfully interpreted, "The Best is Yet to Come" with a sly subtlety and Russ Kassoff's jazz accompaniment. Kassoff also played for chanteuse Yvonne Constant who showed what Frank Sinatra's hit, "My Way," is all about when she performed the original, "Comme d'habitude," with a wink and savoir-faire.
We know that Stephen Sondheim's mentor was Oscar Hammerstein II, yet who else but Jeff Harnar would find a reimagination of Oklahoma as written by Sondheim and called "Sunday in the Meadow with George." This was a smart home-run by Harnar. Iris Williams performed an elegant, "Two for the Road" and Carolyn Montgomery-Forent's "I Can't Get Started" demonstrated sharp phrasing and savvy interpretation.
You had to laugh when Don't Tell Mama's head honcho, Sidney Myer, appeared with the best rendition of, "I'm In Training For You" since The Boswell Sisters in the 1930's. Did you ever think of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" as a comedy number? The terrific Lenny Watts sold his version and admittedly, these farm animals had some disabilities.
Lina Koutrakos was magnetic digging into the lyrics of "My Favorite Year" and T. Oliver Reid worked that stage in "River Deep, Mountain High." The mesmerizing Laurie Krauz with Daryl Kojak on piano took "Some Enchanted Evening" into a creative new space. Frenchie Davis went from TV's American Idol to Rent on Broadway and to this benefit to sing "Home" from The Wiz. Also from The Wiz and, accompanied by Billy McDaniel, theatrical powerhouse, Vivian Reed was electricity personified with "Believe in Yourself."
Stacy Sullivan gets double credit for mid-show auctioneer extraordinaire, deftly raffling off some CDs and later delivering an intensely introspective, "Midnight Carousel," accompanied by Jon Weber. Closing the show was Tom Gamblin with a nod to cabaret personalities now gone and from Bridges of Madison County he delivered "It All Fades Away (but you)." Perfect.