The third night of the New York City Cabaret Convention (October 20-23), presented by the Mabel Mercer Foundation dedicated to fostering cabaret and those who perform in that tradition, paid tribute to composer Burton Lane and lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, two of the musical theater’s foremost songsmiths, in a program titled "Something Sort of Grandish." As with the other sessions, the program took place in the Rose Theater of Jazz at Lincoln Center. An impressive array of performers did the honors.
Some numbers were Lane-Harburg collaborations, some were examples of works each wrote with others (those will be noted here). Co-hosts for the evening were cabaret stars Andrea Marcovicci and Jeff Harnar, who started the show teaming on “You’re All the World To Me” (Lane and Alan J. Lerner) with Alex Rybeck at the piano. The evening sped along efficiently, thanks in part to the policy of having each performer introduce the next attraction.
A highlight was the presentation by Marcovicci of the Donald Smith Award to Jennifer Sheehan, an honor given in memory of the founder of the Mabel Mercer Foundation and a long-time force promoting cabaret. Sheehan demonstrated why she deserved the distinction by superbly performing “Here’s to Your Illusions” (Harburg and Sammy Fain) and “Look to the Rainbow.”
Sheehan in turn introduced Carole J. Bufford, one of my favorites, singing “Down With Love” (Harburg and Harold Arlen) and getting explosive applause for her interpretation of the Great Depression song, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”(Harburg and Jay Gorney).
Another zinger presentation of the evening came from Christine Andreas, who, prowling the stage, tore into “What Did I have That I Don’t’ Have?” (Harburg and Lerner). She definitely had it.
This was quite a quality evening. Anna Bergman sang “Right As the Rain” (Harburg and Arlen) and teamed with Brent Barrett for “Too Late Now” (Lane and Lerner). The combination of Billy Stritch at the piano (also signing) and Jim Caruso was infectious, as they teamed on “I Hear Music” (Lane and Frank Loesser), with Caruso soloing on “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” and delivering a gentle, pensive rendition of “If I Only Had a Brain” (both by Harburg and Arlen).
A favorite team of mine, married couple Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, charmed as usual with Comstock at the piano and singing “The Lady’s In Love With You” (Lane and Loesser), Fasano soloing with “Last Night When We Were Young”(Harburg and Arlen) and the two singing “How About You?” (Lane and Ralph Freed).
The inimitable Karen Akers, customarily sophisticated, entertained with “It’s Time for a Love Song” (Lane and Lerner) and “Fun to be Fooled” (Harburg and Arlen). Rita Gardner demonstrated her continuing skill with “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” I enjoyed Iris Williams performing an ultra-smooth “April in Paris” (Harburg and Vernon Duke) and Marcovicci and Harnar returning with a duet of “Something Sort of Grandish.”
Others lending their talents were Gabrielle Stravelli, Anthony Nunziata, Sally Mayes and Richard Holbrook, with pianists including Alex Rybeck, Tom Nelson, James Followell, Ian Herman, Art Weiss, Don Rebic and Jon Weber.
Magnetic Natalie Douglas closed the evening with “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe” (Harburg and Arlen) and “Satan’s Li’l Lamb” (Harburg, Arlen and Johnny Mercer) with the entire company assembling to sing “Over the Rainbow” (Harburg and Arlen). Reviewed October 23, 2014.