American Standards are glorious finish to 2022 Cabaret Convention

By Lucy Komisar

KT Sullivan, photo Richard Termine.

KT Sullivan, a doyenne of jazz through the Mabel Mercer Foundation she heads, “opened “American Songbook: American Standards,” at the Cabaret Convention at Jazz at Lincoln Center Oct 28. It was the finale of a thrilling three-day event that brings singers from the U.S. and abroad to perform before an annual gathering of cabaret fans. And as this evening was dedicated to standards, it’s worth noting who wrote them.

In her classic cabaret voice, KT Sullivan sang “Sail Away,” from the Noël Coward musical. Coward is one of the legends whose work is presented both in cabaret and musical theater as you can see below.

Tim Connell exuded Irish charm a George M. Cohan medley with “Give my respects to Broadway” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Carole J. Bufford, photo Richard Termine.

I loved glittery red-head Spider Saloff with her own charm in Cole Porter’s “The Tale of an Oyster,” “…I’ve had a taste of society/ And society has had a taste of me.”/ Wise little oyster.”

Phillip Officer came on superbly smooth in Sondheim’s “Anyone Can Whistle.”

The always favorite Carole J. Bufford in a glittery Charleston dress sang and danced effervescently — in great voice– to Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave.” 

A new (for me) favorite was Hannah Jane “What Did I Ever See In Him?/I’ll Show Him/ I Hate Men.” From Bye Bye Bridie, by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams. Grumbling, “What did he ever do for me?/ Well, to be honest, he was sometimes nice/ But still it wasn’t worth that awful price.”

A high school winner, Jillian Mustillo sung “Bill” (Jerome Kern and P. G. Wodehouse) in a clear soprano. You will see her again.

Amra-Fay Wright and Emma Pittman, photo Richard Termine.

Haley Swindal did an elegant sophisticated “Through The Years” (Steve Dorff and Marty Panzer).

Meg Flather performed emotively in a dark “Lonely Room. (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma.) 

Amra-Faye Wright did a great “Hard Hearted Hannah” with a sound that rings through the hall. (Jack Yellen, Bob Bigelow, and Charles Bates, with music by Milton Ager).

Emma Pittman, who is Roxy in Chicago, turned her lilting soprano to “Someone to Watch Over Me” (George and Ira Gershwin).

Shana Farr and Ben Jones, photo Richard Termine.

Shana Farr has a thrilling soprano in My Fair Lady‘s “I Could Have Danced All Night” (Frederick Lowe and Alan Jay Lerner.)

Romantic crooner Ben Jones has a Las Vegas sound that reminds one of Tony Bennet in “I Want to Be Around,” by Sadie Vimmerstedt and Johnny Mercer. Hmm, hadn’t heard her name before.

Mariann Meringolo, photo Richard Termine.

 Anais Reno, 18 years old, sung “Autumn Leaves” in the original French, with a jazz inflection and a bit of scat.  You will hear from her. The song is by Joseph Kosma, with original French lyrics by Jacques Prévert.

I’ve always liked Marieann Meringolo. Here’s a bit of a torch song, “Fifty Percent” (From the show Ballroom, songs by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Billy Goldenberg), about a widow in love with a married man, Meringolo switches genders: “I’d rather have 50 percent of her than all of anybody else.”

MOIPEI, photo Richard Termine.

MOIPEI, the young Kenya trio, does a terrific jazzy 40s swing sound, plus skat and doowop, in “It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing.” Composition by Duke Ellington with lyrics by Irving Mills.

Some of them will be back next year for the 34th annual Cabaret Convention.

Something I like about these events is that at intermission and curtain, performers come to the large lobby to mix and chat with people who’ve just seen them sing. By now, many of the performers and audience members know each other. It really is a convention in the usual sense of the word.

Cabaret Convention, highlighting dozens of major cabaret singers in the U.S. and some abroad, is sponsored annually by the Mabel Mercer Foundation, Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway and 61st Street, NYC,, Oct 28, 2022.


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