Hundreds of shows and reviews, and here are this writer’s favorites from the year.
by Stephen Mosher Dec. 31, 2022
Well, that was a fun one, wasn’t it? Actually, it went by so fast that it’s a little hard to wrap my head around it. But it went by, and it’s time to say ‘bye, which means it is time to look at what this nightclub frequenter found to be the most satisfying shows of the year 2022. The season was one filled with riches, resonance, and reward, as artists of the cabaret and concert circuit put themselves out there for the sake of the fans, for the betterment of the industry, and for the creation of art. I’ve asked the Broadway World correspondents who worked with our team this year to compile their list of favorites for 2022, and you can find them at the links below (Ricky Pope and Tom Salus have opted out, having been away for most of the year). Then all of our readers can get a glimpse at my own list, but I do feel like I should say that mine is not a “Best Of” list because it isn’t for me to say what is best, only what resonated with me – it’s personal. It’s individual. It’s whatever resonates within each person that goes into the clubs and sees the shows that sticks in the mind (and after hundreds of shows in 2022, there is a surprising lot that has stuck in my mind). All of the beautiful talents of the industry should feel happy and proud that they continued to show up and to put it all out there – this isn’t an easy art form and it certainly isn’t an easy industry. To continue to contribute is, alone, a feat worthy of praise, whether it is through live shows, album releases, or even (still) online entertainment. I feel very grateful and very humble that I have been allowed to witness the work of the artists, and document their artistry.
Now, by month, here are the shows that I reviewed for Broadway World that I am still thinking about on this last day of 2022.
Read the Helane Blumfield year-end article HERE.
Read the Bobby Patrick year-end article HERE.
My Picks For 2022
Jonathan Savage, FAREWELL TO THE WEST, 54 Below: J. Savage spent his quarantine out west, in the mountains, in the fresh air, in a small community that needed teachers. He came back to New York with happy memories, a man, lessons learned, and a collection of original songs that he played for a full house at 54 Below, proving that the future of cabaret and concert is in good hands. This is artistry at its most raw, at its most youthful, at its most promising, and it’s a good thing, too, because this dude is one to watch. Read the review HERE.
Jess LeProtto, GOTTA BE ME, The Green Room 42: The many times over Broadway veteran took to the solo show stage in an all-singing, all-dancing, all-exciting one-man show that demonstrated the greatness of Jess. Whether playing his original compositions, his favorite artists, or the songs that remind him of his family, Jess LeProtto gave a tour-de-force performance and came out smelling like a star. Read the review HERE.
Jenn Colella, 54 Below: Jenn Colella is a force of nature and a force for good. The goodwill, the benevolence, the fun factor, and everything exciting that should go into a night in a club comes into the room and up onto the stage with Jenn. Her solo show at 54 Below was a fan-freakin-tastic way to start the year – so much so that the club asked her back to end the year – she will be on the stage of Broadway’s Living Room at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and that promises to be one heck of a party. Read the review HERE.
Ben Jones, LOVE SONGS, 54 Below: It wasn’t a surprise that Ben Jones was good at doing his own thing. After all the guest spots in group shows (for which he won a 2021 Broadway World Award as Outstanding Ensemble Soloist), Ben Jones had no place left to go but the solo show route. This one-off turned into a Nationwide concert and, now, he is a cabaret star. Ben created a companion piece to the show titled I THINK WE SHOULD SEE OTHER PEOPLE and played both acts in the same calendar year. Next week he and Musical Director extraordinaire Ron Abel will play them back to back on January 5th and 6th at Chelsea Table + Stage, and it hasn’t even (technically) been twelve months. Star. Read the review HERE.
Sam Gravitte, SONGS THAT RAISED ME, Birdland: When WICKED star Sam Gravitte decided, at long last, to make his solo show debut, he went all-out, and he hit it out of the park. His evening presented a variety of musical genres and skills, including that of composing and playing for himself, by way of a Sam Gravitte original. The evening highlight: Sam singing his mom, Debbie Gravitte‘s, Tony-winning showstopper in her original key. No, really – it was epic. The night was a promise of greatness to come, and it ended up getting a reprisal, later in the year. Here’s hoping Sam is back on the cabaret and concert stage every year. Read the review HERE.
Liz Callaway, TO STEVE WITH LOVE, 54 Below: Liz Callaway‘s Sondheim show was one of the special moments in 2022, not just because she knew him, and not just because she’s such a talented performer, but, particularly, because of the writing of the musical play she is putting on, Alex Rybeck‘s arrangements, and the presence in the show of her son, Nicholas Foster. This was one of the shows of the season where every last detail came together in one perfect creation. Read the review HERE.
Tim Connell, LUCKY ME!, Pangea: Tim Connell puts out shows like a creation machine. It seems like mere months pass (the average is four) before he has a new show to play his favorite club, Pangea, and his tribute to his Irish roots was a delightful, entertaining, and touching cabaret show, performed by a man who is, clearly, one of the best male performers working in cabaret today. If at all possible, never miss a Tim Connell show. Read the review HERE.
Ann Morrison, MERRILY FROM CENTER STAGE, 54 Below: Ann Morrison‘s musical comedy play about the making of Merrily We Roll Along went beyond the level of cabaret (where it is most welcome) to something that could play a black box theater (where it will probably end up). Armed with only her memories, a deconstructed version of the score, and Musical Director John Shirley, Ann Morrison took the audience on a whirlwind backstage trip worthy of a PBS documentary. Read the review HERE.
Celia Berk, ON MY WAY TO YOU, Laurie Beechman: Cabaret artist Celia Berk stepped out onto a limb with prolific cabaret director Mark Nadler and created a musical storytelling show that showed range, imagination, and an inclination toward the daring. Telling the stories of famous artists who overcame obstacles in order to succeed, Celia left it all on the floor of the stage in her desire to embody the legends that inspire her. And it worked. Read the review HERE.
Ken Page, THERE’S SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT (AND SING ABOUT, TOO!), 54 Below: The iconic star of Cats, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and The Nightmare Before Christmas put on a show that had 54 Below audiences spent from the cheering and the laughing. With his unique blend of outrageousness, tenderness, and philosophy, Ken Page said it all, he said it unapologetically, and he said it with flair… and those famous Ken Page vocals. This one was out of this world, and it needs a full run of shows. Read the review HERE.
Joanna Gleason, OUT OF THE ECLIPSE, 54 Below: Returning to Broadway’s Living Room with her extremely personal show about loss, recovery, and stepping back into the light after healing, one of the entertainment industry’s great storytellers touched both hearts and funnybones, as she always does, and as she is doing right now with her new film THE GROTTO (her writing and directing debut as a filmmaker). In any season, in any club, in any city, state, or country, Out of the Eclipse is a must-see show, and it is always welcome, as are Joanna and her entire art-making family. Read the review HERE.
Josephine Sanges, THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME, Laurie Beechman: One of the most inventive and in-depth tribute shows of this season (and possibly any other), Josephine Sanges‘ program about Fanny Brice, Funny Girl, Funny Lady, Barbra Streisand and Josephine herself accomplished much but what it did best of all was pay a full and proper tribute to the real Fanny Brice (whose authentic legend is often overshadowed by other forces), especially where the Baby Snooks creation is concerned. Josephine’s Snooks was sensational and, alone, worth the ticket. Read the review HERE.
Leslee Warren, ME MYSELF & EYE, Pangea: With this encore production of her debut solo show, Leslee Warren reminded the post-pandemic industry that she is a new force in the art form of cabaret, staking a well-deserved claim in the community. She showed style, talent, swagger, and chutzpah in her memoir show, with loads of laughter, incredible vocals, and even a life lesson or two. Read the review HERE.
Songbook Sundays, Dizzy’s Club/Jazz at Lincoln Center: The Songbook Sundays series premiered in June with a Gershwin show and played three more times throughout the year with shows dedicated to Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Irving Berlin, each program overflowing with the best talent in the industry. Every single performance is the stuff of which live music dreams is made. The entire series was a year-long highlight and the announcement of a second season, one of the most welcome bits of news all year. This is a not-to-be-missed series. Read the reviews HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Donna McKechnie, TAKE ME TO THE WORLD, 54 Below: The luminous Ms. McKechnie had her own Sondheim tribute show to present this year and it was as different and as wonderful as the two that came before it (Liz Callaway and Ann Morrison). Each Lady had different stories and different styles but Donna’s was the one informed by the longest history with Mr. Sondheim. The memories were solid gold with the personal touch and Donna’s ever-present heart, she worked off of a wonderfully constructed script and musical theater acting that you could film and show in a master class. Breathtaking, authentic, touching and invigorating – that’s the combination of Donna McKechnie and Stephen Sondheim. The show just played London and it will tour, and when it does, catch it. Read the review HERE.
Jeff Harnar, I KNOW THINGS NOW, Laurie Beechman: Jeff Harnar‘s Sondheim show was an innovative and interesting piece of cabaret theater in which he, Musical Director Jon Weber and director Sondra Lee create a storyline based on Jeff’s own life, using the songs in an order in which the lyrics tell Jeff’s personal (sometimes greatly personal – a color that Harnar wears extremely well) story. This show defines the art form of Cabaret and deserves every accolade it has gotten, and the ones still to come. Read the review HERE.
Rachel Bay Jones at 54 Below: Maybe the most laid-back and pleasant person working in the New York City live performance industry today, Rachel Bay Jones played 54 Below with one of the most earnest and easygoing shows of the year (that is a compliment). Immensely likable, insanely talented, and overwhelmingly talented, Rachel Bay Jones has no pretense about her, nothing coy or performative – only honesty and altruism. If the goal of cabaret is to have the audience feel like they are in your living, this was the ultimate living room concert. Read the review HERE.
THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT, 54 Below: Jaime Cepero put together a thrill-a-minute group show filled with some of the best talent in the industry, in order to celebrate Juneteenth, a day that should be celebrated by everyone, everywhere, every year. As a producer, a curator of talent, and an emcee, Cepero is pretty good – he sure put this one together wonderfully, and it would be nice to see him do more. This was one of the really exciting nights of the year and, hopefully, the first in an annual series. Read the review HERE.
Aaron David Gleason, COME HELL AND HIGH WATER, 54 Below: After years of working on other peoples’ shows, group shows, and rock shows, Aaron David Gleason came out of the gate with his first-ever cabaret show, and it was worth the wait. Personally informed by his own life story, musically superlative, and filled with his honest and whimsical stage presence, the one-off was a remarkable sign of a future star of cabaret and concert who is ready to make his mark and claim his spot in an industry that is ready for his own unique voice. Read the review HERE.
Deborah Stone, CHIAROSCURO, Pangea: After Bobby Patrick reviewed Deborah Stone’s 2022 entry to the cabaret season, I went to check it out as a patron, and it was so good I had to write about it – the excellence of her artistry demanded it of me. Two rave reviews from one outlet for the same show speaks volumes about quality, but it can be summed up right here in one sentence. Deborah Stone is a consummate artist with her cabaret storytelling, taking meticulous pains to preserve the integrity, intelligence, and entertainment values of her show, from start to finish. Read the review HERE.
Jaime Cepero, SONGS ABOUT ANXIETY 2.0, 54 Below: Artist and activist Jaime Cepero finally took a leap into the solo show oeuvre with a concert of songs written during and about the pandemic, and a star was born. The singing actor has been around for a while but with this collection of original material and a little help from their friends, Cepero put on a show for the ages and for the age in which we are living. Please, universe, let it not be their last. This is the voice and the artistry we need right now. Read the review HERE.
John Clarence Stewart, 54 Below: Television actor and star John Clarence Stewart stepped out of his comfort zone with three nights at 54 Below, and what he had to deliver to the audiences was absolute honesty, total vulnerability, and musical storytelling of a fresh, new, nature that is most welcome in the industry. Rarely does a person hit it out of the park on their first cabaret outing but John Clarence Stewart showed that he is special and that the medium is his domain to own, if he wants it. Read the review HERE.
Tanya Moberly, MOBERLY AT MAMA’S MONTHLY, Don’t Tell Mama: Tanya Moberly is the rock and roll Queen of Cabaret, and she is never not engaged in the act of creation. With this monthly series, Tanya gives everything she has in that Moberly fashion that she has perfected to the letter. Each iteration of the series is different, and the night I caught her show wasn’t rock, though, it was show tunes – Sondheim and Schwartz, to be exact. And she did the legends so, so very proud. This was Moberly at her best, rock or otherwise. Read the review HERE.
SPEAKEASY MAGICK, The McKittrick Hotel: It was a surprise to get an invitation to some up close and personal prestidigitation and it was one of the highlights in this or any year. I had wanted to review a magic act since starting this job and, after this one, I can’t imagine another one being better. Magic is real, and it is at the McKittrick. Read the review HERE.
Backstage Babble Live!, 54 Below: Podcaster Charles Kirsch did a live concert with some of the Broadway legends he has interviewed on his show and it was a sold-out smash that gave the patrons of the basement a chance to see Len Cariou live, to watch Beth Fowler recreate “Patterns,” and to witness a cast of true Broadway legends in the act. This was essential cabaret presented in the club that specializes in Broadway legends. Read the review HERE.
50 Key Stage Musicals, 54 Below: When Robert W. Schneider created a live companion piece to his book, the heavens above opened and rained glory on cabaret and concert. In one night, Schneider gathered together some of the greatest and most legendary Broadway talents to recreate the moments that made history. Highlights included watching Anita Gillette and Penny Fuller do a fifteen-minute medley from Cabaret with Michael Lavine, and seeing Andre De Shields go full-on Glinda with “If You Believe.” This was legendary. Read the review HERE.
Betty Buckley, MY ROMANCE, Cafe Carlyle: One of the greatest storytellers of all time gave Cafe Carlyle audiences a week of bliss in live entertainment. Intimate, raw, otherworldly, and accessible, Betty Buckley held nothing back in her quest to share her best, and share her best, she did, proving why she is one of the greatest and why people love her, so, and keep going back for more. Read the review HERE.
Amy Beth Williams, GREAT LADIES, GREAT SONGS, Don’t Tell Mama: There is no other like Amy Beth Williams. With each new show at Don’t Tell Mama, Amy puts on display the true art of cabaret, making each number into a musical monologue worthy of the great actresses of the past, women like Laurette Taylor, Eva La Gallienne, and Helen Hayes… only with music. With this show, ABW honors the women of song and the songs they sang, and she did both proud. Read the review HERE.
Clint Holmes, BETWEEN THE MOON AND NEW YORK CITY, 54 Below: Clint Holmes and a crackerjack team of collaborators (including WILL NUNZIATA and Michael Orland) created a musical play that honors the late, great Peter Allen. Because Clint actually knew the iconic singer-songwriter, the proceedings were particularly personal and highly powerful. With charm, pathos, and unbelievable vocals, Clint Holmes took cabaret artistry (and his own) to a whole new level. Read the review HERE.
ASA Celebrates Eric Michael Gillett, Chelsea Table + Stage: The American Songbook Association presented the first-ever Darrell Henline Award to Eric Michael Gillett in honor of his work and presence in the cabaret field, as performer, as director, as coach. For the star-studded evening, Carolyn Montgomery produced one of the slickest, most professional, seamless evenings of entertainment to take place all year. All group shows should be so flawlessly executed and entertaining. Read the review HERE.
IT: A MUSICAL PARODY, Chelsea Table + Stage: Started in Los Angles by the Rockwell Musical Parodies company, this spoof of the Stephen King novel (and subsequent film versions) was entertainment at its best. With proper sketch comedy acting, rock concert singing, and competition show dancing, the Garrett Clayton-helmed musical play was the show to see during the Halloween season… and during the year 2022. Read the review HERE.
Julie Halston, DE-CLASSIFIED, Birdland: Fresh off of being bestowed with a Tony Award for her tireless work in charitable fundraising for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, Julie Halston debuted a new comedy show that (if it is at all possible) took her comedy monology to new places of greatness. Although she has been doing shows like this for a few *ahem* years, Julie Halston is ready for a Netflix special, and this show is not only tangible proof of that, it might just be the one to do it. Read the review HERE.
Leslie Uggams, ONLY IN NEW YORK, 54 Below: The Broadway legend and show business champion delivered everything she has to the nightclub stage, playing to sold-out houses of screaming fans that couldn’t help but to present her with multiple standing ovations, every night. The vocals are as strong as ever, the stories are as perfect as they could be, and Leslie Uggams is the entertainer of this writer’s idolatry. She touched hearts with her honesty, dropped jaws with her singing, and drew tears with her humor (the “June Is Busting Out All Over” segment was pure genius, comedy in a bag). In a season generously populated with excellence, the Leslie Uggams run of shows at 54 Below was, for this reviewer, MY FAVORITE SHOW OF THE YEAR 2022. Read the review HERE.
Santino Fontana, 54 Below: The Tootsie Tony man brought his inimitable style and panache to a solo show at 54 Below that followed a random (ish) theme: the audience would pick the songs he would sing out of a hat. The participatory nature of the program gave the crowd a greater connection to this man who can, quite apparently, do anything and do it well. Whether singing, playing the piano, telling stories, or making fun of members of the audience, Santino Fontana is just right at home on the nightclub stage. He should make it a yearly (at least) date. Read the review HERE.
Amy Jo Jackson, THE BRASS MENAGERIE, 54 Below: Kabarettist Amy Jo Jackson returned to the solo show stage with her award-winning examination of the works, the heroines, and the history of Tennessee Williams. Using nothing more than an immaculately written script, a handful of props, and some television monitor graphics, Amy Jo stormed the castles of our minds with her talent, her stage presence, and her unshakable, undeniable originality. Read the review HERE.
The Callaways, AS LONG AS WE’RE TOGETHER, 54 Below: The Callaway Sisters (Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway, to be specific) joined forces with a Thanksgiving week show that took an affectionate look back at some of their favorite moments from their shows over the years. There were duets, solos, unbelievable harmonies, unchartable affection, stories touching and hilarious, and laughter, laughter, laughter in their musical cabaret scrapbook. It was a sort of “Best Of” night, and it couldn’t have been better because Ann and Liz are, indeed, the best. Read the review HERE.
Sidney Myer, Pangea: Sidney Myer returned to performing, after a brief hiatus that felt long, looking and sounding like he had been to the spa, vacationing in Europe, or simply living the good life. Spry, spruced-up, and sounding like a million Myer bucks, Sidney’s storytelling reached every audience member with laughter, sighs, and tears. Not only is Sidney Myer one of the most original artists working the industry these last few decades, he is one of the best, and his latest show is proof positive that talent and originality never fade. In this case, they have improved. Read the review HERE.
Audra McDonald, Carnegie Hall: Audra McDonald took a night off from playing eight shows a week on Broadway to show an at-capacity Carnegie Hall (2,804 seats) why she is considered the greatest, why she is respected and adored, and why she holds the Tony Awards acting record with six wins. The singing actress and outspoken activist gave her audience two hours of stories from her life and career, and exquisite musical offerings from a gloriously received “Mr. Snow” to an unexpected “Rose’s Turn” and an eruption-causing mic-free “Summertime.” This was the event of the season and nobody who was there will ever forget it. Read the review HERE.
Nicole Henry, WHEN I THINK OF HOME, 54 Below: Miami-based jazz singer Nicole Henry returned to New York for two nights of full houses at 54 Below, where she reminisced about her youth, her family, her home(s), and the music that made her. With undeniable elegance, otherworldly vocals, and powerful personality, Nicole electrified every last moment of the show that left audience members screaming for more, especially a ringside table full of men whose arms were in the air throughout most of the night, in praise of the Lady – praise she deserves. Read the review HERE.
Jessica Vosk, GET HAPPY – A Judy Garland CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION, Carnegie Hall: For the second year in a row the singing actress and sold-out concert star thrilled a standing-room-only crowd with her skills as a singer, her personality, and her oratory abilities. Speaking on and off script about Judy Garland and how the legend has affected her life, Jessica Vosk proved herself a performer who can hold an entire audience in her hand for two-plus hours… and they would have stayed longer if she had let them. Indeed, they would have stayed all night and sung them all. Read the review HERE.
Vanessa Williams, THE DIAMOND SERIES, 54 Below: In the cabaret casting coup of 2022, 54 Below secured the Internationally-beloved and respected actress and singer for their Diamond Series, and for six nights Broadway’s Living Room was more glamorous, more elegant, and more starry than it had ever been before. The intimate concert that took place had audiences on their feet, dancing, some nights, or just sitting and sighing as the world-class entertainer sang and danced her way through a ninety-minute concert with one of the best bands you’ve ever heard live and in person. It was the perfect way to end the year. Read the review HERE.
These, dear readers, were memorable highlights in a year when there was so much live entertainment to be seen, and the next year promises a lot more, so log on to the websites for the clubs and see what’s out there that looks good to you. See these people while you can, don’t take a chance – I was living in New York when Nancy Wilson was still playing out and I didn’t go and more’s the pity. I missed some of the greats, including Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett and I regret it. Get out and have some fun, see the icons, try some clubs and acts you haven’t experienced before, take some chances, have some adventures… and if you see her listed on one of the club calendars, please check out my
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR: Ann Hampton Callaway
Ann Hampton Callaway is an iconic singer-songwriter-musician who actually does have a personal life, even though it seems impossible, given the amount of time that she spends dedicated to the production of art. She is constantly touring with a selection of different shows, to places and clubs far and near. She has reached multitudes of fans through her various social media platforms. She records and releases new material on a regular basis. And when she shows up, she really delivers. In the spring Ann played a week of sold-out Peggy Lee shows at 54 Below and in the fall she returned to Broadway’s Living Room with her sister, Liz Callaway, with their all-new sister act. Industrious, indefatigable, and always the most fascinating woman in the room, Ann Hampton Callaway is a treasure to the worlds of music, live entertainment, and art. She has stood out in this writer’s mind all year and staked a forever claim on my heart. She will be back at 54 Below on January 15th with Peggy Lee AND THE 70S and, again, on March 2nd with Amanda McBroom in DIVALICIOUS. Ann Hampton Callaway is a Mistress of Creation and we are all the lucky benefactors of her artistry.