The Nightlife Awards honors NYC’s performers in the worlds of cabaret, jazz and comedy clubs. This is their 10th year and the only awards ceremony where there are no acceptance speeches and the honorees perform to show us why they were chosen.
There were only five Awards given this year and many of the guests were returning past winners and guest “stars.” The best thing about the evening were the talented hosts who kept the evening moving with songs and humor, Lucie Arnaz and Bill Irwin. Lucie, as always, looked gorgeous in a short black outfit, opening the festivities with Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s “Hey, Look Me Over” written for her mother, Lucille Ball, when she starred on Broadway in Wildcat with Ron Abel at the piano.
Chris Durang & Dawne – “Retro” Award for Breaking New Ground in Musical Comedy Performance Art. Chris Durang is a successful playwright but has been doing this “act” for the past twenty years, a throwback to the Ramada Lounge days. This is not for everyone’s taste as it is all tonque-in-cheek but the funniest bit was the very square and stiff Chris and Dawne trying to sing modern rock songs.
Jon Hendricks – Nightlife Jazz Legend. Jon still has it at 90 years old and sang a bossa nova, then played a flute-like instrument. Two singers played his past partners, Lambert and Ross, recreated their past magic with a jazz tune.
Christine Lavin – Contributions to NY Nightlife as both composer and performer. Christine never misses and was one of the highlights of the evening. She told a story of being on a subway and seeing the actress Barbara Barrie, but shyness prevented her from telling the star how she felt about her. It was a terrific saga that only Christine could carry off and the upshot was that she finally met Barbara years later and they became friends. The song she sang was about not letting special moments in your life slip away. Barbara Barrie was in the audience and took a bow.
Amanda McBroom – Contributions to NY Nightlife as both composer and performer.
The beautiful Amanda McBroom opened up with a satire aimed at today’s politicians to “Keep it in your Pants.” In 1979 she wrote the Grammy award winning title song for Bette Midler’s film, “The Rose” and performed it with all the passion and understanding that this standard deserves and only the songwriter herself could make happen.
Terri White – Contributions to NY Nightlife as both composer and performer.
I know that Terri White is a terrific performer and the story of her career and “comeback” is amazing. However, it was a mistake to sing, “unplugged” with no microphone. Her first song “Sweet Beginnings” was a misfire as she and her accompanist were not together. She redeemed herself at the closing with “Here’s to Life” but again needed to be amplified.
Karen Akers has a style all her own and is a very special singer. However, (with Don Rebic at the piano) she sang a song that was a brave choice but didn’t really didn’t fit her style, “Arthur in the Afternoon” and then a very complicated and biting love song that Sondheim wrote for a film that never came to fruition, “Worth the Wait.”
Ray Ellin, a very funny comedian who is going to be the new guest host for the new “Gong Show.” He demonstrated that stand-up comedy is one of the most difficult of the arts and he was able to win the crowd over with his timing and material.
Allen Harris, a great jazz singer and guitarist, brought his band and sang “I Can’t Live My Life Without You” followed by a great rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon.” It was the opening act and a little long, but Allen is such a master and so entertaining that it would have been all right if he even sang a third number.
Nellie McKay – a very attractive young woman plays the piano, sings, composes and has made a name in the last few years. She sang two of her own compositions, a comical angry love and another that I couldn’t figure out the title. These songs might have fit into her act, but they might have needed a set-up for the audience.
Karen Oberlin is last year’s jazz winner and was accompanied by guitarist Sean Harkness. She sang “The Very Thought of You” and “I Get Along Without You Very Well” beautifully and simply. It was one of the best moments of the show and demonstrated you don’t need all the tricks and flash if you have talent.
None of us know how Scott Siegel does all the things he does – the Broadway By The Year Series, Summer Cabaret Festival, Broadway Ballyhoo at Feinsteins at The Regency and he and his wife, Barbara are at every show and event around time. Congratulations to Scott Siegel and his co-director, Scott Coulter, for putting this Award ceremony together
and honoring many of the unsung heroes in the cabaret, comedy and jazz.
By Linda Amiel Burns
Photography: Maryann Lopinto