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A CurtainUp Review
The 6th Broadway Cabaret Festival
Back in 1919 Dorothy Parker wrote, "Think how hideously different things are now. We go heroically to the theater, hoping always, with piteous faith, that maybe it won't be so bad after all — yet ever dreading, with the bitter fear born of cruel experience, that probably it will be worse."
Writers and critics have been predicting the demise of Broadway for decades, yet the Great White Way continues to thrive, as Scott Siegel will be the first to tell you. Now in its sixth year, Siegel's Broadway Cabaret Festival at Town Hall celebrates a Broadway staple: the musical. For Siegel "Broadway, both then and now, is a place where melody is king and a "melting pot of American music" where jazz, blues, comedy, patter and love songs all meet.
This year, the 3-part festival kicked off with Broadway Melody Makers, directed by Scott Coulter, with musical direction by Ross Paterson. The show featured musical theater luminaries Alice Ripley, Judy Kaye, Tom Wopat, Nellie McKay and Gregg Edelman. A highlight of the evening was McKay singing with the orchestra ("I Could Write a Bookm""It's All Right with Me". She accompanied herself on piano ("What'll I Do?") and on ukulele ("Don't Fence Me In"). Another highlight came from Judy Kaye belting out "What Did I Have that I Don't Have" and four Sondheim favorites to celebrate the composer/lyricists 80th birthday.
An Evening with Betty Buckley featured the Broadway veteran singing her favorite songs, not only from Broadway but also by popular composers such as Paul Simon and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Buckley, who claimed she was a Texas cowgirl who never got the chance to play in Annie Get Your Gun, proved she's a cowgirl who can sing everything from a bluesy Billie Holiday number to Rodgers and Hammerstein's most romantic ballads.
The festival concluded with Broadway Originals! This was an afternoon of songs reprised by the performers who either introduced them in the original Broadway production or a revival. Directed by Michele Lee, who also performed, with musical direction by John Fischer, this show featured Christiane Noll, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, John Tartaglia, Loni Ackerman, Tom Wopat, Lucie Arnaz, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Carole Demas, Crista Moore, Nancy Opel, Maureen Silliman; also Jo Sullivan Loesser, who wowed everyone by putting down her mic and going it alone — a foretaste of Siegel's popular Broadway Unplugged shows.
In between songs such as "Purpose"(John Tartaglia), "Gypsy Medley" (Crista Moore) and "I Stayed" (Tom Wopat), the actors dispersed various anecdotes, mostly centering on unforeseen and unforeseeable mishaps. Tales about the difficulties involving puppet sex, the unexpected appearance of stinging bees, actors forgetting to put on essential pieces of clothing and scenery falling down onto the wrong spots may have convinced more than a few in the audience that there's more to theater than meets the eye.
Broadway Originals! had a surprise for the audience: The 80 plus Marilyn Maye, who keeps on proving that size may or may not matter, but age certainly does not.
We can all be happy that 91 years after Parker wrote her lament, Broadway is still going strong. And events like the the Broadway Cabaret Festival are proving it.
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