By William Wolf


A charming, talented singer with a desire to please, cabaret artist Richard Holbrook has brought his “The Many Moods of Christmas” show to Don’t Tell Mama, which I caught last night (November 26). Holbrook presents a seasonal program, not just Christmas staples, and even injects some satire into his repertoire.

At the outset Holbrook establishes his tone and approach with a medley built upon “I Happen to Like New York.” He has a very youthful looking face, and his delivery oozes enthusiasm and sincerity. He gets profoundly into his selections, and the lyrics are always crispy-clear, with their meaning coming through sharply.

In short, Holbrook is very likable and very accomplished, which becomes apparent to his audience as in good voice he entertainingly ranges through broad territory. Occasionally he weaves in autobiographical notes that help you get to know him.

His “Silver Bells” and “Colored Lights” are especialy effective, and so is “Glow Worm.” One of my favorites turned out to be the schizophrenic “Confessions of a New Yorker (Hate-Love New York)," a witty assembly of pros and cons, but adding up to a love affair with the city.

Holbrook plunges into jazz with “Cool Yule,” with music and lyrics by Steve Allen and additional lyrics by Eric Kornfeld. The funniest song is the witty “The Twelve Days After Christmas,” a parody with words and music by Frederick Silver, which Holbrook performs with delight.

Overall, Holbrook provides a generous helping of expertly sung selections that make for an enjoyable cabaret experience. At the end he gets more into the yuletide spirit with his wish to all, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Excellent musical backing is provided by the Tom Nelson Trio, with Nelson, Holbrook’s musical director, at the piano, Tom Kirschmer on bass and Peter Grant on drums. You can catch Holbrook during December—Dec. 3 at 8:30 p.m., Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 8:30 p.m. At Don’t Tell Mama, 313 West 46th Street. Phone: 212-757-0788. Reviewed November 27, 2017.


Sporting a flashy appeal and a Vegas-type singing style, Isaac Sutton had a full house at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Saturday night (Oct. 21). Sharply dressed, he enthusiastically pitched his personality and talent to the audience, sometimes extending a one-on-one welcome to ringsiders.

He started with “Come Fly With Me” to set his tone of matching Las Vegas with New York, and delivered a lively program that showed off a strong voice and a Sinatra-style repertoire.

Sutton also sings fluently when handling lyrics in Hebrew, and is comfortable in French and Italian as well, giving off international vibes. He has performed in concerts in his home country and elsewhere, and also acted in musical comedy, including, as he pointed out, starring as Bobby in a production of “Company” in Israel.

Sutton’s repertoire offered Saturday included a Sinatra medley, and also, switching to a Dean Martin salute, “That’s Amore.” For example, “Popular,” and “Volare” were among his other choices. Demonstrating a more poignant side, he sang a “Fiddler on the Roof” medley. His “Non, je ne regrette rien” revealed his talent interpreting a French chanson.

A highlight was sharing the platform with his guest performer, Carrie St. Louis, who is a bundle of Broadway-style pizzazz. They obviously had fun singing together with the one-upmanship number “Anything You Can Do.” St. Louis’s fine voice soars to the high notes when needed.

Audience applause elicited two encore numbers, “Hallelujah” and “Mambo Italiano.” Sutton at one point walked among the tables to get closer to the crowd.

The singer’s talented musical group included Dan Pardo, pianist and musical director, Greg Orlando on double bass and Zachary Eldridge on drums. At Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street. Reviewed October 23, 2017.


Put the seductive songs by the prolific George Gershwin together with talented performers and how can you go wrong? Evidence of the sublime combination was entertainingly apparent on the second night of this year’s New York Cabaret Convention (October 17) titled “S’Wonderful: The Music of George Gershwin.” An appealing array of expertise smoothly presented kept the program flowing at a merry pace.

Co-hosts for the evening at Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, were Andrea Marcovicci and Jeff Harnar, who also performed. They didn’t have to say all that much, as the format had each performer introducing the one to follow, which helped keep things moving at a good clip.

I inevitably had my favorites. One of the most original entertainers working today is violinist and humorist Aaron Weinstein. Sardonically recounting his personal contacts with Gershwin (long before Weinstein was born), he spun a narrative in an avalanche of double talk that earned him applause, then showing his talent on the violin, launched into a fabulous arrangement and riff playing “Somebody Loves Me.”

I get great pleasure every time I hear the combined talents of Eric Comstock and his wife Barbara Fasano. On this occasion Comstock excelled at the piano with “Who Cares?” and “Things Are Looking Up,” and Fasano gave an absolutely exquisite rendition of “Love Walked In.”

Anna Bergman is gifted with a wonderful soprano voice, which she demonstrated yet again singing “By Strauss.” Karen Akers and Celia Berk revved up the fun with their duet “What Are We Here For” Then Akers, left to her own devices, injected fresh meaning into “How Long Has This been Going On?” with her mellow voice and sophisticated delivery.

Marcovicci and Harnar performed in both the first and second acts, initially teaming on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Later, they sang ‘’S’Wonderful” together. Marcovicci soloed with “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “The Man I Love.” Harnar had further vocal input, singing “Treat Me Rough,” an amusing and unusual (for Gershwin) number laced with masochism. He teamed with Shauna Hicks on “I’ve Got Rhythm” and with her and James Followell at the piano for “Bidin’ My Time.”

Mark Nadler is a demon genius at the piano, and he brought a fiery close to the first act by sailing into “S’Wonderful” and “Rhapsody in Blue” with dazzling, complex virtuosity. He dependably creates a spellbinding effect, and wows an audience with his talent and commanding presence.

Jon Weber not only excels as an accompanist to various singers, but when given the spotlight, he can show his own talent, as he did with his solo “Piano Playin’ Jazzbo Brown.” Steve Ross, an institution in the world of cabaret, is another superb pianist and a congenial singer to boot. He entertained with his interpretation of “Stairway to Paradise.”

The sexiest performance of the evening was given by Marissa Mulder, who sauntered on stage in a tight fitting dress and in intimate, breathless tones invitingly sang “Do It Again.”

One surprise was the zany combination of British visitors Dominic Feress, also at the piano, and Martin Milnes, who proved that they could pack a medley of 30 Gershwin songs into six minutes of stage time. They were a laugh riot with their wacky routine.

Others on the program also merit applause for their assorted contributions, including Stearns Matthews, T. Oliver Reid, Deborah Silver, Nicolas King, Gabrielle Stravelli, and Jennifer Sheehan, the latter a discovery of Marcovicci when Sheehan was a teenager. She has matured beautifully as a performer, evidenced by her lovely renditions of “A Foggy Day” and “Love Walked In.”

Coming up: Tonight, Oct. 18th: “Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of Cabaret,” hosted by James Gavin and dedicated to Barbara Carroll, “The First Lady of the American Keyboard;” and tomorrow, Oct. 19th: “Two Marvelous for Words/Stardust, The Music of Hoagy Carmichael & Richard Whiting,” hosted by Klea Blackhurst.

Awards scheduled to be presented are The Margaret Whiting Award and the Julie Wilson Award. At Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway and 60th Street. Tickets at the box office or through CenterCharge, 212-721-6500. Reviewed October 18, 2017.


There is a risk in starting a cabaret convention opening night with Marilyn Maye, introduced by KT Sullivan, host and Director of the Mabel Mercer Foundation, with an explanation of wanting to begin with a legend in honor of legendary Barbara Carroll, who died this past year. How do you successfully follow Maye, still a super-dynamic song interpreter and in powerful voice at the age of 89?

There she was, the opening act of the 28th consecutive New York Cabaret Convention (October 16-19) produced by the Mabel Mercer Foundation at the Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincon Center. Maye, terrific as usual, treated the appreciative audience to numbers that included “A Most Unusual Day,” “Day In, Day Out,” “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," and “Come Rain or Come Shine.” She set a very high bar for the rest of the performers on the gala first night bill.

But the assembly of talent that followed proved to be worthy. Carole J. Bufford, for example, came through with an intimate, teasing version of “Chicago,” enhanced with some snappy flapper dance steps while Ian Herman soloed at the piano. Then she emotionally delivered her own brand of “The Man I Love.” KT Sullivan surprised her with the Donald F. Smith award, given in honor of the late founder of the Mercer Foundation. Smith, who inaugurated the annual Cabaret Convention, was a champion of cabaret as a vital art form.

In the comedy department, Adam Shapiro entertained singing “Bennies From Heaven,” about a soldier who has been away for years finding his wife with a kid named Benny and the explanation that he came from heaven. He also scored with “Bei Mir Bist Schoen.”

Statuesque Luba Mason, wearing a dazzling blue and white gown, sang a “Croation Folk Song” followed by a poignant rendition of “Love for Sale.” Alan Harris, expert with his accompanying guitar, presented an easy-going rendition of ‘It Was a Very Good Year.”

Karen Oberlin entertained with “Hamlet,” the kooky riff on Shakespeare, then grew serious with the combination of “Night and Day” and “The Night We Called It a Day.” KT also took her turn in the spotlight with “After You” “So in Love” and the lilting “Wunderbar.”

The closing spot went to Vivian Reed, after she was presented with the Mabel Mercer Award. In her signature style, she zoomed around the stage stomping and whooping it up as she regaled the crowd with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “Higher and Higher.”

Leading up to that strong finish were varied examples pf talent shown off in the packed program. The artists highlighted include Lyric Peterson, Danny Bacher, Corinna Sowers Adler, Joshua Lance Dixon, Tanya Moberly, Jacob Storm and Tommy J. Dose.

Coming up: Oct. 17th: “S’Wonderful: The Music of George Gershwin,” hosted by Jeff Harnar and Andrea Marcovicci; Oct. 18th: “Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of Cabaret,” hosted by james Gavin and dedicated to Barbara Carroll, “The First Lady of the American Keyboard;” Oct. 19th: “Two Marvelous for Words/Stardust, The Music of Hoagy Carmichael & Richard Whiting,” hosted by Klea Blackhurst.

Other awards scheduled to be presented are The Margaret Whiting Award and the Julie Wilson Award. At Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway and 60th Street. Tickets at the box office or through CenterCharge, 212-721-6500. Reviewed October 17, 2017.


The long tradition of variety shows was affectionately recalled in a program of entertainment at the Friars Club last night (May 17, 3017). Produced by Robin Lane, the show presented in the Milton Berle Room at the club featured comedy, song, music and even a magician, the sort of bill that once typified vaudeville.

The tone was set by Mike Fine as MC, who in his wry comedy style twitted the audience, which he teasingly said was the star of the evening. He playfully joked about those he introduced, and unleashed some gags of his own. Example “A woman asked me to make love to her in the worst way. That’s the only way I know how.”

The “headliner” topping the bill was comic Bob Greenberg, who has a gift for certain impersonations. Portly, he got a laugh saying he resembled New Jersey Governor Christie, which he does. He did a dead-on, very funny impression of Curly of the Three Stooges. He also gave a convincing impression of Alfred Hitchcock, another of Lou Costello and one of Oliver Hardy.

I have reviewed Shana Farr in various venues, and once again, in this setting, she sang luminously, giving meaning to “Moon River” and the Noël Coward song “If Love Were All.” She had fun with a sexy delivery of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” As usual, Farr looked great, this time wearing a colorful form-fitting gown.

Danny Bacher combined singing with his instrumental skill. For example, he smoothly sang “I’m Lucky to Be Me,” and entertained playing his soprano sax. Bacher is excellent with his jazz riffs on the instrument, from which he elicits sounds ranging from mellow to complex.

From the easy conversation by Mike Maione when he took the stage, you wouldn’t think he could do magic tricks. But after some humorous comments as he connected with this audience, he did some puzzling bits of magic. The most interesting one consisted of his “socks sorter box”, from which he drew assorted socks, which he strung on a line. He called up a helper from the audience, who placed the socks in a bag. Then presto, she randomly withdrew two socks, and it turned out that when Maione pulled up his trousers he was wearing a match for each sock she selected. You might dub the trick socko.

There was an easy-going ambience in the room for the event, which was preceded by a dinner. Being in the Milton Berle Room made me think of a news item this week reporting a lawsuit by a comedian who claimed that his jokes were stolen. Given that Berle was jokingly known as “the thief of bad gags,” I wondered what he would have thought about the case. At the Friars Club, 57 East 55th Street. Reviewed May 18, 2017.


I have seen the immensely talented Christina Bianco do acts in variety shows, and I enjoyed her as the lead in a play. But I have never seen her do a whole cabaret show, a deficiency remedied April 3 at New York’s attractive and important jazz club Birdland. My admiration for her soared even higher. Bianco was absolutely terrific.

Although she wows an audience with her uncanny ability to imitate a wide range of singers, as the thousands who have seen her on YouTube know, what I also appreciated was how vibrant and likable she is holding the stage as a personable entertainer.

Bianco is the real deal. She is a bundle of fun and joy, with enthusiasm that strikes a chord with an audience. From the minute she took the stage, backed by a five-piece band, she was dynamite. She kidded herself singing “Short People,” bemoaning what it is like to be short (4’11”). Later in the show, after regaling us with her impressions, she showed how appealing she can be as herself when she sang “Down With Love.” It is important to recognize that even if she dropped her impersonations, Bianco could win us over in her own right.

But who would want her to do that? She is a marvel of precision as she sings in the manner of Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, Whitney Houston, Gwen Stefani, Celine Dión, Christina Aguilera, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, and others whom she perfectly nails.

One of my favorites in her act stemmed from her game of having people call out songs and then the name of someone whose style would be applied. One suggested Madonna’s “Material Girl,” and then as the singer to interpret that song, the name of Edith Piaf rang through the room. When Bianco proceeded to sing as Piaf doing “Material Girl,” the result was spectacular.

She also did a range of impressions from television shows, and most appealingly she did her bit reading from Barbra Streisand’s book about designing her home. Perfectly imitating Streisand’s voice and speech manner, Bianco hilariously captured the pretentiousness of the passages she read,

Much, much more was packed into her effervescent 90-minute show. And yes, she concluded it with her famous YouTube medley of singing voices that can leave one flabbergasted at her vocal rage, sharp ear for performer nuances and amusing facial expressions to go with the lyrics. All of this was cleverly packaged to flow smoothly, further evidence of what a savvy and accomplished entertainer Bianco has become. At Birdland, 315 West 44th Street. Phone: 212-581-3080. Reviewed April 5, 2017,


International chanteuse Adrienne Haan likes to try something different and has the skill for such explorations. As she explained to her Metropolitan Room audience last night (March 28), she grew up loving the classic French chansons, which have a place in her much-praised performance repertoire. But she also grew up during the age of rock, which she liked too. So it occurred to her to try merging both, something she says that to the best of her knowledge nobody else has done.

The result is her new “Rock Le Cabaret!” show, which I viewed last night. Here’s how it works: She takes songs like the traditional “Padam Padam” and “La Vie en Rose” and gives them a rock interpretation, enhanced resoundingly in arrangements played by a talented musical group consisting of Karen Dryer, musical director and pianist, Mike Campenni on drums, Adam Kabak on electric bass, Branden Palmer on electric guitar and Kyle Schweizer on tenor sax, flute and keyboards.

Mighty rock crescendos filled the room as Haan applied her strong voice, sometimes in competition with the power of the excellent band. Haan fulfilled her goal of merging the elements with resounding success in the context what she was attempting.

Will it please every taste? That depends on one’s affection for rock. Those who favor it should get a kick at what Haan has accomplished. As usual, she is a polished performer who dominates a stage and communicates intimately with her audience. As I have said before, I consider her one of the best of contemporary cabaret artists.

Unlike Haan, I did not grow up in the age of enthusiasm for rock. I’m more of a traditionalist. When she sang Jacques Brel’s “Le Port D’Amsterdam” in a more customary way at first, it was greatly to my liking and an example of what Haan usually does with such material. However, that was not the point of the evening.

Haan, dressed more like a rocker than in the sophisticated outfits she usually wears, impressively built her concept to the fullest and succeeded in involving the audience to the point of getting people on their feet and clapping to the rhythm. Her selections included, among others, “Milord,” “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” “Sous Le Ciel de Paris,” “La Bohème,” “La Chanson Des Vieux Amants,” and for her encore a rousing, rock “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.”

She definitely achieved her designed heights in this inventive, exploratory merger. Let’s just say the joint rocked. (Haan returns to the Metropolitan Room on May 3 for her tribute to the great American songbook.) At the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-206-0440. Reviewed March 29, 2017.


With her customary flair and style, Adrienne Haan created a Weimar Republic atmosphere at Feinstein’s/54 Below last night (February 22) in a new show telegraphing warnings from the past about similarities of what has begun to happen in the age of President Trump. With sardonic comment embracing her repertoire, Adrienne flashed a wicked smile in denying any comparisons. The songs spoke for themselves in her program titled “Between Fire and Ice: A Diabolical Weimar Berlin Cabaret.”

Haan appeared strikingly in a smartly tailored, claret-colored suit minus blouse or bra, the outfit accenting her tall, slim figure. As well as having a dynamic, well-trained voice, Haan is also an effervescent entertainer and actress who can mesmerize an audience. Whether on stage or wandering around the room fluffing a man’s hair and demanding a kiss, she flashes personality plus. I find her one of the best cabaret artists working today.

Talking about songs that captivated her as a youngster, she calls upon her German background to delve into musical history and what was going on in the cabaret world during the Weimer years before the rise of Hitler and Nazism destroyed the post-World War I democracy. She has the advantage of singing both in English and German.

Leading with the sarcastic “It’s All a Swindle,” she followed with a “German Cabaret Medley,” and also included a feisty “Medley of Women’s Emancipation.” In a particularly pertinent song on the same day when the Trump Administration backed off from protection of transgender students, Haan sang the sprightly “Masculine-Feminine,” an amusing celebration of gender-bending.

In singing “Pirate Jenny” from “The Threepenny Opera,” Haan emphasized the women’s revolt inherent in the lyrics. She pointed out that “Tonight or Never,” which concluded her regular program, was written just before the Weimar Republic ended.

Not all of Haan’s song list was political, as exemplified by her singing “Falling in Love Again,” her passionate and sensitive rendition of “Alone in a Big City,” “Naughty Lola,” “Nanna’s Song” and “Johnny.” For an encore she sang “Lili Marlene,” which she noted was an anthem among troops in World War II.

A highlight of the evening was the piano accompaniment by Music Director Howard Breitbart, who stepped in on emergency notice after Haan’s scheduled musical director had surgery. The result was an ultra-smooth pairing, with Breitbart impressively mastering the complex, extensive repertoire. At Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, Phone: 646-476-3551. Reviewed February 23, 2017.


The world of French songs was brought to the Metropolitan Room last night (December 6, 2016) by international singer Adrienne Haan, who is a dynamic artist above and beyond her frequent cabaret performances. Her “Cabaret Française” show demonstrated her vocal expertise befitting a concert stage, and indeed she has done such appearances in New York and on her international tours.

Haan, also an experienced actress, exudes sparkle in her ability to connect with an audience. On this occasion she made an especially elegant appearance in a red strapless gown and a hairdo that accented sophistication. As is her practice, she gave the audience tidbits about her background, including growing up in Germany, Luxembourg and France and influences on her life and career.

Beginning dramatically with a French medley, she moved on to interpreting works of composers, not necessarily French, but whose songs have thrived in France and internationally, such as works by Kurt Weil.

Two of her most dramatic numbers were by Jacques Brel—“Le Port D’Amsterdam” and “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” With the former, Haan injected vigor and power into the lyrics with a force that virtually shook the room. With "Ne Me Quitte Pas,” she evoked intense emotion with the lyrics dramatizing a lover’s poignant pleading.

No such program would be complete without homage to Édith Piaf, and Haan delivered a Piaf medley. Wisely, she made no attempt to imitate Piaf, but gave her own vibrant treatment to some of the most famous Piaf songs.

Haan likes to get audience involvement, whether she tours the room and sings romantically to a partiular guy, or gets an audience clapping or singing along, as with her rousing “Padam Padam,” about a melody that keeps on haunting, with music by Norbert Glanzberg and words by Henri Contet. Haan was accompanied by Richard Danley on piano and Mike Campenni on drums.

One suggestion that might help those in an audience who don’t know French would be brief introductory summaries by Haan in English of what songs say. Although that might interrupt the smooth flow of her vocal delivery, it would be useful if done compactly.

Haan is due back at the Metropolitan Room in the spring. Whatever her theme the next time around, audiences can be assured of pleasure. At the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-206-0440. Reviewed December 7, 2016.


I find it impossible to go to the New York Cabaret Convention held in Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center without thinking of its congenial founder, the late Donald F. Smith, the cabaret visionary who originally launched the convention under the auspices of the Mabel Mercer Foundation. Time moves on, and now the annual host is the Foundation’s artistic director, the renowned singer KT Sullivan, who launched this year’s series, starting with the gala opening (October 18, 2016) and followed by performances Oct. 19, 20 and 21.

Sullivan, known for her finery and especially her great hat collection, made a flashy appearance in one outfit, intriguing chapeau included, and then for the second act, she appeared in another outfit and hat change. The audience has by now become accustomed to KT as the face of the convention and, judging by the applause, enjoys her fashion introduction each year. After taking her bow, she also sang impressively.

The nearly three-hour concert was richly endowed with an array of performers, seasoned and new. Two of my favorites were among them.

Christina Bianco is not only a cabaret treasure but she has achieved international fame thanks to her uncanny ability to impersonate woman entertainers with dead-on accuracy. On YouTube she has been watched by thousands upon thousands. For her convention appearance she took the song “Cabaret” and demonstrated satirically how various singers would perform it, starting with an amazing imitation of Barbra Streisand in both voice and style. She was also spot-on with Judy Garland, Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, Bernadette Peters and others. Bianco, also an actress, is a showstopper, as she was on this occasion.

Another of my favorites is superbly talented Carole J. Bufford, who looked great in a clinging dress that if it were any tighter would have sueezed her out of it. Her song of the night was “St. James Infirmary,” and I’ve never heard it sung like that before. She got real funky, southern and bluesy, and tore into the lyrics with low-down passion, sometimes at high decibels. Bufford was a knockout, vocally and visually.

I also always enjoy Barbara Fasano, who as often is the case, was accompanied by Eric Comstock, terrific at the piano in his own right. (They are also married). She sang her pleasing interpretation of the number “Old Photographs.”

The most impressive among newcomers was Josephine Bianco, who at only the age of 15, wowed the crowd with her rendition of “People.” Given its difinitive performance by Barbra Streisand and efforts by so many others, for a singer so young to try it was indeed a challenge. But Bianco brought something new to the number, reaching deeply into it to find the feelings within the lyrics and music and the result was intense sensitivity. Her talent was especially impressive-- a highllght of the night.

There’s nobody quite like the veteran Vivian Reed, who burned up the stage with her “Believe in Yourself” from the musical “The Wiz.” Maureen McGovern is an icon who also knows how to put over a song with beauty and individuality, as she demonstrated with the well-worn “Over the Rainbow.” She sang it without a mike, and the lyrics left her lips with perfection and strength in the large, hushed hall.

On the jam-packed program were Matt Baker, Natalie Douglas, Karen Oberlin, Stacy Sullivan (KT’s sister), Stefan Bednarczyk, T. Oliver Reid, Eric Yves Garcia, Kim David Smith and others.

Each year awards are given, and this time the Mabel Mercer Award was presented by KT Sullivan to Maureen McGovern and the Donald F. Smith Award to Natalie Douglas. At Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Ceenter. Reviewed October 20, 2016.


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