With limited cabaret venues in New York and a wide pool of talent available, promoters of cabaret are always looking for ways to boost interest. What was billed as the first International Cabaret Festival was held in New York (February 17-21), and the icing on the cake, in addition to an array of performers entertaining at various night spots in the city, was the creation of a Cabaret Hall of Fame and announcement of the first group of inductees.
The festival was sponsored by Cabaret Scenes, a publication devoted to the art form. The Cabaret Hall of Fame was the idea of Bernie Furshpan and Joseph Macchia of the Metropolitan Room, so it as appropriate that announcement on February 17 of the first notables given membership took place at the Metropolitan Room.
Those inducted were a mix of current performers and others who are no longer with us. The distinguished list includes Bobby Short, Julie Wilson, Nancy LaMott, Jan Wallman, Barbara Carroll, Steve Ross, Marilyn Maye, and Andrea Marcovicci.
In honor of the occasion, a hefty program unfolded that first festival night. Anita Gillette, an actress as well as a cabaret star, persistently turns on audiences with her effervescent song interpretations and veteran show biz pizzazz. She entertained the Metropolitan Room crowd with “Can’t Be Bothered Now,” “Happy Go Lucky” and “Shall We Dance.” Gillette stamps all of her work with individuality, as she did on this occasion.
Another highlight was internationally renowned singer-pianist Steve Ross, who was there to accept his induction. Of course, he also showed his stuff by performing in his inimitable manner. Also on hand to accept personally was the show’s topper, cabaret icon Andrea Marcovicci, who is a wizard at establishing audience rapport with her personality, anecdotes and song choices.
Marcovicci sang “On Such a Night as This,” “Umbrella Man,” and the emotional “The Kind of Love You Never Recover From.” She spoke of her admiration for the late Julie Wilson, and she paid tribute to Donald Smith, the late dedicated promoter of cabaret, asserting, “Without Donald Smith I wouldn’t be here.”
Others on the bill included JayCee Driesen, who powerfully gives a song her all, as she did with “I’ve Finally Arrived” and “This is the Moment.” Jean Brassard sang “Edith” and “C’est Si Bon” with flair. And Frans Bloom showed special strength with “Nature Boy,” “Padam Padam” and “I Have Lived,” the latter an impassioned number by Charles Aznavour. At the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street. Reviewed February 20, 2016.