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The 22nd Annual Bistro Awards: And the Winner Is…

Sherryeaker_2 Last month I had the pleasure of presenting a panel of Broadway and cabaret performers for a group of out-of-town theatre critics. When the moderator asked the panel which medium they preferred, most admitted that though they love the Broadway stage, there’s nothing like an intimate room with an audience so close you can reach out and touch them, figuratively and literally.

The critics were witness to this unique genre later that evening when many of those same artists, plus others, performed for the writers at the Metropolitan Room. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to hear the words spoken in the afternoon demonstrated that night.

The 2007 Bistro Award winners have also demonstrated the uniqueness of their art. When it came time for Back Stage cabaret writers David Finkle and John Hoglund to choose this year’s recipients, they considered the guidelines set up by Bob Harrington in 1985, which can be summed up as follows:

The Back Stage Bistro Awards recognize achievement in a wide variety of categories—from outstanding performances to outstanding accomplishments and contributions by members of the cabaret community. New categories can be drawn up each year as they best describe the recipients, and categories may be dropped as well.

The object is not to choose “the best,” but to congratulate those who have done something special during the year.

The Bistro categories may recognize performers who are newly arrived on the scene (Debut) as well as those who have returned to the community after many years (Return to Cabaret). They honor performers who have shown enormous growth in their art during the past few years (the Ira Eaker Special Achievement Award) and also those who have spent their entire careers dedicated to the art (the Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award).

What makes the Bistro Awards so unique is that they are a one-time honor in each category. If Bistro winners could be considered in the same slot each year, not only would the task of choosing the honorees be nearly impossible, but it would decrease the chances of others winning in that category. So when you’re looking over the following list, if you feel that a name has been omitted in a particular category, it’s very likely because that person is a previous winner. On the other hand, if you see a performer’s name and recognize him or her as a former Bistro recipient, it’s because that person was previously honored in a different category. 

So, without further ado, here are the winners of the 2007 Back Stage Bistro Awards for Outstanding Excellence in Cabaret:
  VOCALIST: Keith David at the Metropolitan Room; Douglas Ladnier at Danny’s Skylight Room. 
  DEBUT: Valarie Pettiford at the Metropolitan Room.
  MAJOR ENGAGEMENT: Jeff Harnar at Feinstein’s at the Regency; Rebecca Luker at Feinstein’s at the Regency.
  MAJOR JAZZ VOCALIST: Kurt Elling at Birdland.
  JAZZ VOCALIST: Andrew Suvalsky at the Metropolitan Room.
  MUSICAL DUO: Klea Blackhurst and Billy Stritch in Dreaming of a Song: The Music of Hoagy Carmichael at the Metropolitan Room; Faith Prince and Tom Wopat in Let’s Fall in Love at Feinstein’s at the Regency.
  MUSICAL GROUP PERFORMANCE: Tom Andersen, Scott Coulter, and Tim Di Pasqua in Southern Comfort: A Down-Home Country Music Jamboree at Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Café.
  MUSICAL COMEDY PERFORMANCE: Jay Rogers in Eat, Drink, and Be Mary at the Metropolitan Room; Kristine Zbornik at the Metropolitan Room.
  UNIQUE ARTIST: Jose Luis Rodriguez at Danny’s Skylight Room.
  RETURN TO CABARET: Charles Cochran at Danny’s Skylight Room.
  TRIBUTE SHOW: Terese Genecco in Drunk With Love: A Tribute to Frances Faye at the Metropolitan Room.
  PIANO BAR ENTERTAINER: Ray Fellman for The After Party at the Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Café; David Shenton at Helen’s Piano Lounge; Rick Unterberg at the Townhouse.
  COMEDIAN: Bob Smith at Gotham Comedy Club.
  SONG OF THE YEAR: “One Thing” by Tim Di Pasqua.
  SPECIAL MATERIAL: “Almost (99 I Love You’s)” by Joe Iconis and Robert Maddock.
  RECORDING: Mary Foster Conklin for Blues for Breakfast; Barbara Fasano for Written in the Stars.
  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Shelly Markham for his performances with Andrea Marcovicci in By Request at the Oak Room at the Algonquin.
  INSTRUMENTAL GROUP: The Ross Patterson Little Big Band at Danny’s Skylight Room.
  TECHNICAL DIRECTOR: Tim Flannery at the Oak Room at the Algonquin.
  SPECIAL AWARD: Chris Mazzilli, Steve Mazzilli, and Lennie Watts for outstanding achievement at the Metropolitan Room; Donald Schaffer for outstanding cabaret achievement at Danny’s Skylight Room; Erv Raible with Wendy Lane Bailey for the Cabaret Conference at Yale University; and Mike Greensill for consistent excellence as musical conductor and arranger.
  IRA EAKER SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Named for my late dad, the co-founder of Back Stage and a nightclub enthusiast, the award goes to an outstanding performer on the rise, Sheera Ben-David.
  BOB HARRINGTON LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Our recipient will be revealed shortly, so watch for the announcement in an upcoming issue or on our website, www.backstage.com.

The Bistro Awards gala evening will be held on Mon., April 9, at Gotham Comedy Club. Details on purchasing tickets will be announced in next week’s issue and on the web. Congratulations to all!

-- Sherry Eaker, Editor at Large

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