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A CurtainUp Review
The 2011 Nightlife Awards
Messy winter or not, Scott Siegel's annual Nightlife Awards at The Town Hall are a tradition. For the third time, it was hosted by comic and writer, Bruce Vilanch who appeared with head bandaged and bloodied and declared. "Hello from all of us at Spiderman." Vilanch went on to announce the "no-show" of numerous stars: " The Harvard Sailing Team is on a gay cruise up the Nile, Jim Caruso is having work done, Aaron Weinstein has a hangnail on his fiddle finger" and about Billy Stritch "I had no idea he sings." What a kidder, that Vilanch.
Stritch does sing and he came on next to deliver the tender, "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." He also accompanied another funnyman, Jim Caruso, with, "Tone Deaf," a hilarious salute to Birdland's weekly "Cast Party."
If the show featured some repeat winners, it is excusable since their performances are as commendable as Christine Ebersole's resonant version of "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" from Showboat. She followed this with a traditional hymn, "How Can I Keep on Singing?" ;John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey are longtime favorites in Scott Siegel shows, but it was up to Molaskey to carry the show this time since Pizzarelli was working in Florida. With her was jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein, Special Award winner for Outstanding Debut. Molaskey sang a leisurely, "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" with Weinstein softly accompanying her. She followed with a spirited Peggy Lee tune "It's A Good Day" with Weinstein taking the melody out with dizzying fingerwork. Later in the show, with shades of veteran jazz violinists, Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli, Weinstein showed his fiddle versatility after delivering a dry, witty intro to an old Gershwin tune, "Somebody Loves Me".
This year the fey irony of Nellie McKay went country. With an innocent air of bemusement, she revisited Loretta Lynn's heartrending classic "One's On the Way," comparing a work-weary, pregnant country woman reading about the glamorous adventures of the rich and famous. When she was finished with the ode to rural poverty, Villanich quipped"That was the theme of True Grit. "
Recalling the day of the dreamy crooner, Allan Harris's soulful baritone captivated listeners with two songs of romance and regret, "Cottage For Sale" and "Young and Foolish." Other standout moments included jazz winner Karen Oberlin who eschewed jazz for a wintry January theme with the ballad, "Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year".
There was some confusion when Bruce Villanch asked musical director and pianist, Tedd Firth for some traveling music and the evening was abruptly over. That's all, folks.
Following is a list of this year's winners.
Outstanding Cabaret Vocalist In A Major Engagement: Christine Ebersole
Outstanding Cabaret Duo Or Group In A Major Engagement: John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey
Outstanding Cabaret Vocalist: Liz Lark Brown
Outstanding Cabaret Comedy Or Characterization: Mark Mccombs
Outstanding Cabaret Duo Or Group: The Rescignos
Outstanding Jazz Vocalist: Karen Oberlin
Outstanding Jazz Soloist: Harry Allen
Outstanding Jazz Combo or Characterization: Microscopic Septet
Outstanding Comedian In A Major Engagement: Colin Quinn
Outstanding Comedian: Hannibal Burress
Outstanding Comedy Duo Or Group: Harvard Sailing Team
Special Award For Outstanding Debut: Aaron Weinstein