by Rob Lester
By the time Betty Buckley closes the evening's festivities at the MAC Awards on Monday, April 17th, those words will have been intoned numerous times, and over 30 winners in cabaret, jazz and comedy categories will have been announced. In addition to Broadway's Betty, the musical theater will also be represented by Lee Roy Reams, who will be the host.
"It will be a fast-paced entertaining night," Judy Barnett told me. She should know - she's not only MAC's co-President (with Scott Barbarino), but is the evening's producer-director. We had a chance to talk this week as she filled me in on plans for the 20th annual awards ceremony and show for MAC, the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (which is two years older than its awards).
"Basically, we're acknowledging our past, our present and the future," she remarked happily. "You'll see people on stage who came up through the ranks" and the show will be "fast-paced and entertaining." There will be a sextet (led by trumpeter Bud Burridge) on stage, keeping things lively, and Judy promises a few surprises as well. "In between numbers, we'll be giving out the awards." (A full list of nominees is at the end of this article.)
Performances will run the gamut. In comedy, there will be a spot by New York favorite Judy Gold, one of two women receiving the Board of Directors Award. Receiving the Time Out New York Award (chosen by that magazine) this year will be Creation Nation, a duo who combine music and comedy to equal mayhem (a sample will be on the bill). The aforementioned Betty Buckley is one of the Lifetime Achievement Award winners, along with jazz veterans Clark Terry, the trumpeter, and singer Sheila Jordan; all of whom will perform. I heard the latter in her birthday engagement this year at a downtown jazz club and she was delightful - a pleasure to watch loving her music and her audience. Another Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Donald Smith, creator of The annual Cabaret Convention and founder of The Mabel Mercer Foundation. A cabaret moment will occur with Miles Phillips singing something from his recent act, Specific Overtures. In the world of pop, I won't make any predictions as to what the other Board of Directors' Award winner, Phoebe Snow, might sing. She's long been one of the more versatile singers, tackling everything from soul to rock to R&B with her unique vocal quality.
Most singers are expected to do two songs. Representing the younger generation, singer-songwriter Ben Taylor is emblematic of what MAC is attempting to do - expand the horizons and pass the torch (Ben, whose parents happen to be James Taylor and Carly Simon, is a compelling singer whose recordings I especially admire.)
Speaking of the younger generation, special attention and spotlight will be given to the singers nominated for their debuts in cabaret. They will sing two numbers (one for the young men, one for the women) specially written by cabaret favorite and prior MAC winner Michael Holland. When I asked her to describe the just-for-the-occasion numbers, Judy immediately replied, with relish, "They're clever and funny, and an homage to the art form. These songs are musically delicious." She said Michael is the perfect choice, one of the "fresh, young, creative people" she values for their ability to invigorate the scene. (The Duplex Cabaret Theatre presented all these nominees - except one, who had to be out of town - all together in one recent evening. Each had the opportunity to do a healthy section of his or her act; it was an impressive night. There is reason to rejoice: these terrific performers, honoring tradition and full of originality prove that cabaret is alive and well and hardly a dusty recycling bin.
In addition to saluting shows and performers in cabaret, jazz and comedy, there are nominations for director, technical director and two categories for new songs, one in the for "special material," which often brings out some very funny custom-tailored numbers. This year, MAC member club The Iridium hosted a night where all of the nominated songs were presented, many featuring their writers, in a well-received concert. The same club also had a night featuring those nominated in the Female Vocalist slot.
Recordings are also given MAC awards: a special Jazz Album of the Year as well as CD of the Year. MAC celebrates the ephemeral in-the-moment experience of live performance as well as the permanent document - which, for many, is the introduction leading to the step of going to see the performer live.
MAC Co-President Scott Barbarino has multiple perspectives well. Like Judy, he has experience as a performer, club manager (Dillon's, The Iridium), and former MAC winner. He understands the pleasure and the pressure. "I wish the same excitement for all the 2006 nominees as I felt when my vocal group, The Bev-Naps, received our MAC Awards, especially the night that Kitty Carlisle Hart proudly smiled up at me from front row center, and I forgot the rest of my bandmates' names." He's enjoyed his work with MAC, the performers and audiences, and looks forward to Monday's gathering as a very special night.
MAC is growing and changing, boasting 70 clubs as members. And lines are blurring, with many of them embracing various kinds of entertainment. "We're increasing the size of our umbrella." Judy is pleased that more crossover is being seen in clubs. And that's reflected in the awards show. With experience as a club owner and manager, director, actress, songwriter and singer (with CDs and six MAC Awards of her own, among other honors), she has a broader perspective than most.
This spring also sees MAC with a revamped website and a meeting for all those interested on May 16th at 6 p.m. The website is www.MACnyc.com.
Tickets for the MAC Awards are $45, $75, $125 and $160 for prime orchestra seats. Tickets for the post-awards party at Charrascuria Tribeca, 221 West Broadway (between Franklin & White Sts.) are $50 in advance and $55 at the door and include full Brazilian dinner, soft drinks and live music. For party tickets and additional information about MAC, call (212) 465 2662 or go to the MAC website.
2006 MAC AWARDS HONOREES & NOMINEES
Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to Betty Buckley, Sheila Jordan, Donald Smith and Clark Terry.
Board of Directors Awards will be presented to Phoebe Snow and Judy Gold.
Time Out New York Award will be presented by Adam Feldman to Creation Nation.NOMINEES
New York Debut – Female
New York Debut – Male
Cabaret Comedy / Musical Comedy
Variety Production/Recurring Series
Special Production / Vocal Duo or Group
Piano Bar/Restaurant Singing Entertainer
Piano Bar/Restaurant/Hotel Lounge Instrumentalist
Special Musical Material
Female Jazz Vocalist
Male Jazz Vocalist
Male Stand-Up Comic
Female Stand-Up Comic