arts 02.2.09


One of Simon Cowell's favorite epithets for a performance he doesn't like is to label it very cabaret, intoned with a disdain usually reserved for someone who hasn't bathed in a month and has a long history of robbing convenience stores.

You'd never find complete agreement on what's cabaret and what's not, but as the Justice said, you know it when you see it. Our own definition would be that while the repertoire may include pop, jazz, and just about anything else, the great American songbook and Broadway are going to figure prominently. Here's a sampling of veteran and newbies who will go down well with a martini.

The Veterans
Barbara Cook, at age 81, continues to be the greatest practitioner of the art, a living treasure if there ever was one. She'll be at Feinstein's in April. On her new album Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, she knocks Sondheim's No More so far out of the park that, really, it's been sung now, no need to cover it. Just listen to how she handles something as simple as 'let's do it' and 'go to it'—killer… Marilyn Maye might not have the same name recognition as Ms. Cook, but as a musical producer friend of our says, Maye is "simply thrilling whether she's belting 'em out, or softly breaking your heart."… Craig Pomranz's high tenor voice is as sweetly appealing as ever, and he brings his usual good cheer to the Metropolitan Room on Valentine's Day and February 15th… It's relatively rare that a cabaret performance gets preserved—the here-and-now (or hear-and-now) of the genre is much of the point. But you can experience a piece of performance history with Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, a digitally restored release of her 1980 act… The second annual March is Cabaret Month kicks off with a gala on March 10th, where you can hear the both vets and newbies in a show hosted by Brandon Cutrell (see below).

The Newcomers
Maude Maggart certainly has the DNA. Her grandmother starred in the George White Scandals of 1926. Grandpa did vocals for the Harry James Big Band. Her parents met while performing in the original cast of Applause. Sis is Fiona Apple. No surprise she sings like a dreamShawn Ryan's career got a boost when he became a semi-finalist on America's Got Talent; his vocals, which have a supple warmth, play well on the telly, but seem ideal for an urban saloon… Natalie Douglas has got a gorgeous set of pipes and she knows how to use them. Listen to a short clip here… One of Philip Chaffin's albums is called Warm Spring Night, and that's as good a description as any of his classic, leading man tenor…. Another delightful addition to the scene is Suzanne Fiore. Choice cut: Save Your Love For MeBrandon Cutrell has become a NYC cabaret favorite for his weekly show The After Party, Fridays at 10:30pm at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 W. 42nd [9th]. The kid can sing, he's charming, and he's got the nerve to ascend All The Things You Are and come out the other side… And one more: Patricia Zentilli, who aces every one of the great cuts on her Pull Me Through album.

Series and Venues
Here are some of the places to look when you want to hear terrific performers in a fairly intimate setting: Check out Jim Caruso's Cast Party, the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center. There's Don't Tell Mama (don't miss Seth Rudetsky's weekly "Broadway Chatterbox"), The Carlyle, Feinstein's, Algonquin Oak Room, and The Duplex.

For listings, reviews, and CD info, start here:
Stu Hamstra's Cabaret Hotline
Cabaret Exchange
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