Six Degrees of Cabaret Separation This Weekend: From Sequins to Springsteen to Salon
By ROB LESTER****Our shortest month still has some NYC cabaret life in it with this last weekend. Shall we play “Six Degrees of Separation”? OK.
FIRST DEGREE: Rick Skye returns as Liza with a Z—that letter so prominent in the the word Bazazz! — the name of his variety show. That’s Saturday night at 8 PM at Don’t Tell Mama on West 46 Street. Guests include comedic cutie Nancy Witter and mercurial Molly Pope. These Skye extravaganzas have been like Las Vegas East in a small room. A December outing was packed with talent, too, one of the highlights —besides all the campier moments— being a breath of fresh, classy air with a straight and especially thrilling rendition of “As Long As He Needs Me” by veteran Karen Wyman who brought new perspectives and tears, too. (Just back from an extended time in Florida, I’ve learned —sshhh!! It’s not even announced yet — that this sublime songstress is booked for Scott Siegel’s April 16 show in his series of songs from movies at Feinstein’s/54 Below. But April is a long way away, and many degrees of separation and celebration will be here first). So, let’s leap back to our non-Leap Year February, but let’s also keep in mind for the closer future that Rick will be back in early March —the 10th, to be precise– with his next Bazazz already set with guests including mischievously madcap Jay Rogers.
SECOND DEGREE: Jay Rogers magically reappears as a guest on Sunday afternoon —in fact, he be be titularly Groovin’ on a Sunday Afternoon, a variety show held at 53 Above at 4 PM at the space inside the Broadway Comedy Club on West 53 Street, west of Eighth Avenue.
THIRD DEGREE: Jay Rogers shows up yet again with Bazazz!’s musical director Ricky Ritzel who gives your weekend a head-start tonight with his own monthly Broadway revue which features some of his usual suspects, also at Don’t Tell Mama. The shows surveyed are Annie Get Your Gun, Grease and New Girl in Town.
FOURTH DEGREE: And Lisa Viggiano (that’s Lisa with an S, not Liza with a Z…) is singing Bruce Springsteen downtown at….OK, I suppose you are wondering what this fourth degree of separation could be. No need to give me the fourth degree: I will tell you. Springsteen was born the same year that Annie Get Your Gun closed on Broadway (1946), Grease opened on Broadway in the year The Boss signed with Columbia Records and recorded his first solo album, and New Girl in Town was directed by George Abbott, who died in the first month of 1995 at the age of 107, the same month that its original star, Gwen Verdon, turned 70 and Bruce recorded a few new tracks added to his best-selling Greatest Hits album. Of course, the singer-songwriter is now a Broadway guy himself, with his concerts going on at the Walter Kerr Theatre. As I was about to say, at The Duplex, there’s one of those examples of stretching the newer chapters of The Great American Songbook, rock ‘n’ roll era I mean, to find its way into the cabaret world. If Springsteen can be welcomed on Broadway, why not this small Greenwich Village stage? As a director (and singer herself and as a producer), Tanya Moberly is known for her hat tricks–taking chances with pop music singer-songwriters and making it all work in this genre. The musical director is guitarist/bassist Matt Scharfglass, no stranger to the cabaret stages, including her own or appearances of the top-drawer performer center stage. One of our most communicative singers, vivacious Viggiano is up for the task of this transformation. She’s at the Duplex both Saturday and Sunday.
FIFTH DEGREE: Director Moberly, who brought in singer Viggiano last Sunday to be featured in The Salon Open Mic at the Etcetera Etcetera restaurant on West 44 Street, and Tanya will be back in that saddle as producer again this Sunday night. The optional theme is “Sing Happy,” which is the name of a Kander and Ebb song introduced by Liza Minnelli in her first Broadway show. And so…
SIXTH DEGREE: ….that brings us back to Liza, where we began, since all roads lead to Liza in cabaret. After all, she starred in the movie version of Cabaret, which, unfortunately, CUT one terrific song from its score that her character sang—namely “Don’t Tell Mama,” the tale of working in a nightclub. And DTM itself has a choice of 5—count ‘em—5 shows this Sunday to finish off your weekend, including a showcase of teenagers, the club’s regularly brunch show, and the last performance of MetroStar Talent Challenge winner Emily Ellet, whose exciting show I previewed in a separate article in our Cabaret section (scroll down). So, sing happy. (By the way, that very song was the one chosen as her entry by Christina Jimenez, the winner of the contest for high school students earlier this month, funded by Adela and Larry Elow and presented by the Mabel Mercer Foundation. I was there and she’s sensational. So there’s hope for the next generation in cabaret, too, which should make all of its fans sing happy.