Sunday, December 4, 2011

Applause! Applause! Review of "ASCAP/MAC Showcase" by Andrew Martin

This review of an "ASCAP/MAC Showcase" at The Lighthouse was written by Andrew Martin and appeared in Volume I, Issue 2 (December, 1997) of Applause! Applause! published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens.

ASCAP/MAC Showcase - Various Artists
The Lighthouse (111 East 59th Street, NYC)

No one can ever accuse Jamie deRoy of non-motivation. An almost unbelievable eight years have elapsed since the MAC president launched a series of afternoon showcases at Lincoln Center's Bruno Walter Auditorium, and both deRoy and top ASCAP exec Michael Kerker continue to present a cornucopia of musical manna that is sure to become the backbone of cabaret and theatre for years to come.

During the early years of the MAC Songwriter's Showcase, we mere mortals were treated to the vocal power of such artists as Vicki Lewis, Annie Hughes, Phyllis Pastore, Terry Burrell, and myriad other illustrious performers. Phillip Namanworth was constantly dazzling assembled spectators with lyrical gems, and the genius of the late Arthur Siegel was made known to those unfamiliar. Not to mention Linda Kerns' awesome first-ever turn on Brad Ross' "Who Wears These Clothes?", which will always live in the memory of those who bore witness.

A pairing with ASCAP and a random series of locations followed over the years. Highlights were to include Laura Dean at the Blue Angel with Barbara Schottenfeld's "Isn't It Strange?", Cleo King at the Ballroom doing "Lifelines" from "A...My Name Is Still Alice", Mark-Alan at Caroline's with Larry Kerchner's "What's Your Phobia?", and just about anything by Christopher Mason anywhere it was performed. Names like Francesca Blumenthal, Jason Robert Brown, David Friedman, Douglas J. Cohen, Tom Toce, Dottie Burman, and scores of others (excuse the pun) became part of the cabaret community vernacular immediately after a shot in an ASCAP/MAC Showcase. And while not every number has gone on to live in the hearts and voices of the medium, and rightfully so, the latest version of the Showcase (now held at the Lighthouse on East 59th Street) contained some very pleasant surprises in the tradition the presentation has upheld since it began.

Having caught the lovely Joan Crowe in "Prisoner's Dream" at Rose's Turn some seasons back, it was a genuine pleasure to witness her turn on Tom Brown's "My Brother Dreams In German Now", also from the show. If her future bows in the medium even scantily resemble her current work, it should be a matter of time before Joan Crowe is a name cabaret knows, and knows well. Tom Andersen on his own composition "Yard Sale" (done to even finer perfection with the gentleman's vocals than on David Campbell's oft-unappetizing CD), was unto itself a golden moment, and, as usual, Alix Korey shone, this time with Andrew Lippa's screamingly amusing "Old Fashioned Love Story".

Holiday songs seemed to be a theme here, as well. Lisa Asher was her customary divine self on a Kathy King Wouk number, "On Christmas", with Jeff Waxman at the piano. This was topped by a real eyebrow-raiser, "That Time Of Year", which may be the world's first non-sectarian holiday carol. The latter featured contributions by another of the medium's most underrated composers, the brilliant Nicholas Levin (in addition to Laurence Holzman and Felicia Needleman). And Scott Coulter's voice combined with Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler's "Amazing", really, really was!

But, not everything worked. The phenomenal Alison Fraser delivered the ballad "I Cry Alone", musically beautiful but often lyrically wanting. Billy VerPlanck, accompanying legend-wife Marlene VerPlanck on his self-composed "What Are We Going To Do With All This Moonlight?" was a stunning performance of a placid song that took more than just a bit from the classic "As Time Goes By" via its musical refrains. Allan Harris, a fine jazz artist, seemed out of place with his "Black Coffee Blues". And, as your humble reporter is simply not a fan of Rick Miramontez now or ever, Tish Hinojosa's "Aquella Noche" with Miramontez on lead, is best left uncommented.

However, greatest audience response came from Bryan Batt's rendering of "Inward Bound", a comically lush bit of special material concocted by Albert Evans and Ron Kaehler as the ultimate anti-paean to Cabaret Camp. Granted, Batt is a great singer and Evans and Kaehler are a great writing team. And yet, the lyrics occasionally hit so close to home on the subject of the O'Neill Cabaret Fellowship as to prove embarrassing to some members of our community.

In any case, the ASCAP/MAC Showcase will continue to be a vital voice for America's newest writers within theatre and cabaret. Jamie deRoy and Michael Kerker can always be looked to, and looked at, for bringing tomorrow's creative superpowers to the forefront.

No comments:

Post a Comment