Around Town-Backstage

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I don't know how you feel about old age... but in my case I didn't even see it coming. 

It hit me from the rear.  ~Phyllis Diller

May is Older Americans Month, a perfect opportunity for organizations and all of us to show appreciation for the older adults in their community. The theme for Older Americans Month 2012: “Never Too Old to Play” puts a spotlight on today’s engaged, active and involved elders. In Age-Friendly New York City, many senior centers are hosting special events this month. Consider calling your local center to inquire about activities or get help planning and promoting events at the link below.

92 year old Ervin Drake is in the hospital and on the mend after a fall at home. He has been there for over a week after developing an infection in his knee, and a very high fever. He required surgery on the knee and will remain on antibiotics for about another week and will hopefully be out by the end of next week He is generally in good spirits and is catching up on some reading. Sending hopes for a speedy recovery. Incidentally, he likes jokes. So, his friend/songwriter Christine Lavin is collecting funny anecdotes for him on Facebook!

Donald  Smith pic - H Sullivan

    There will be a public memorial service for the late Donald Smith on Tuesday, May 22 at 6:00PM at Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street.  “Remembering Donald Smith” will pay tribute to the entrepreneur/producer who founded the Mabel Mercer Foundation and conceived and produced the Cabaret Conventions for years at Town Hall before moving on to Jazz At Lincoln Center. Town Hall is the appropriate venue as Donald was instrumental in preserving the Manhattan mainstay as a New York City landmark. The event will be a concert featuring some of Donald's favorite performers TBA. The is no charge. Tickets are limited and issued on a first come, first served basis. To RSVP, call (212) 980 3026 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

   Best to reserve early if you would like to attend and also pick up your tickets at the box office (highly recommended) after May 14th between 12:00 noon and 6:00PM, Monday through Saturday. It is requested that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to Donald's favorite charity – The Mabel Mercer Foundation. If so, you can send a check to The Mabel Mercer Foundation – 160 East 48th Street, #1P, New York, NY 10017 . As previously announced, KT Sullivan is the new Artistic Director of MMF.

In his introductory remarks a few years ago at Jazz At Lincoln Center, the late Mr. Smith stood at the podium telling amusing anecdotes and facts about the cabaret conventions and it's future. He closed his comments by saying, “Please friends - don't let this music die.”

And so, legacies continue. As Smith wanted, the organization he founded continues to honor the great American songbook. The Mabel Mercer Foundation presents Coward In Concert – a 90-minute celebration of the cabaret legacy of Sir Noel Coward on May 17 at 6:00pm at The New York Public Library For the Performing Arts, Bruno Walter Auditorium (Amsterdam Ave. & 65th Street.) The program is free of charge and open to the general public on a first come, first served basis. Further details will be announced shortly.

We all know that Donald was articulate and left no stone unturned in his mission. This will mark the first event held by MMF with Ms. Sullivan as artistic director.


Liza Minnelli will be signing copies of her re-released CD, Live At The Winter Garden on Wednesday, May 9 at noon at Barnes & Noble at 555 Fifth Avenue (46th Street.)  The winner of four Tony Awards, an Oscar, a Grammy, two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy, Ms. Minnelli remains one of the world's consummate performers. Masterworks is releasing her legendary concert album of one of the highlights of her career; Live At the Winter Garden. The long-awaited recording is derived from the original master engineered by Phil Ramone. This concert recording includes performances from Minnelli's show in January 1974 as well as three recently discovered live bonus tracks that were recorded but not included on the original LP.

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Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights In Jazz :New York’s Longest Running Jazz Concert Series,"We Call it Jazz" featuring Christian McBride Big Band, Michael Wolff Trio - and special guest Baby Jane Dexter on Thursday, May 10 at 8PM at TriBeCa Performing Arts Center









JH-Roslyn Kind  The Walt Whitman Auditorium at Brooklyn College was mobbed on Saturday, April 28. The occasion: Roslyn Kind  returned to Brooklyn - after a slight hiatus. With the brilliant David Snyder at the piano, Roz had the crowd in the palm of her hand with her show, Coming Home as she sang well-chosen songs from Broadway to pop to standards. She bravely fought a wacky sound system that alternately had too much echo or no monitors turned on. What a classy lady to gently nudge the technicians for a little help without getting temperamental or making everyone uncomfortable. It took almost mid-way through the show for a tech guy to walk on for three seconds and turn on the monitor and suddenly the glitches went away. Her versions of the rarity Someday (recorded decades ago by Shirley Bassey and also by The Carpenters,) was a highlight as was her special delivery on Stephen Schwartz's Meadowlark from The Baker's Wife. The audience loved it and she could do no wrong. The biggest problem is that she doesn't perform more in the New York area where she has so many fans. After the concert , she graciously sat at a table in the lobby and greeted her long line of fans signing CDs and memorabilia.

BJD M Room promo


Local cabaret legend Baby Jane Dexter returns to the Metropolitan Room with an encore performance of what has been hailed by many critics' as her best how to date for five final performances only starting June 1. This will be the very last chance to catch this incredible show in New York. Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, June 1, 2, 9, 22 and 29 all at 7PM. Of course musical partner Ross Patterson will be at the piano. When I wrote about this show for Cabaret Scenes Magazine, I said with glee, “Only a handful of honest singers have ever touched such gold.” I wasn't making that up. Go

 Another beloved icon, two-time Tony nominee Andre de Shields is back on the scene, He brings his acclaimed theatrical concert, Black By Popular Demand, into the Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Cafe' for two more shows only on three Fridays, May 11 and 18 at 11PM. There are two shows left. 

Andre de Shields poster

Certainly no stranger to New York’s cabaret scene, De Shields reigned as King of Cabaret during the 1970s with the creation of his innovative theatrical concerts in such popular clubs as Reno Sweeney, Horn of Plenty, The Grand Finale, Les Mouches, The Club at La MaMa and many other venues around the world. The Hollywood Reporter once dubbed De Shields “the most lethal pelvis since Elvis!”

Enthusiastically referred to as “a pleasure delivery machine” by journalist Patrick Pacheco, Black By Popular Demand features De Shields along with his longtime partners in crime, vocalists Freida Williams and Marléne Danielle, with accompaniment by pianist Larry Spivack.

In a career spanning more than forty years, André De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, choreographer and educator. He is the recipient of the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival Living Legend Award, the 2009 AUDELCO Award for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical/Male (Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe), and the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. De Shields is best known for his show stopping performances in the original Broadway productions of four legendary musicals: The Full Monty, for which he received Tony, Drama Desk and Astaire Award nominations, in addition to both the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards; Play On! (Tony nomination), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award) and The Wiz (title role). He is currently featured in Chicago’s Goodman Theatre production of Camino Real (through April 8).

Congratulations are in order to our own Karen Mason for landing the pivotal role of Mrs. Danvers in the upcoming brand new Broadway production of Rebecca. The show begins previews on October 30 with an opening scheduled for November 18. Also starring in the production will be James Barbour and Howard McGillan. The leading roles of “I” and Maxim de Winter which were previously to have been played by Sierra Boggess and Tam Mutu will be announced in the coming weeks.

The musical is based on the classic novel by Daphne du Maurier and tells the story of Maxim de Winter, his new wife ("I") and Mrs. Danvers, the obsessive, controlling and manipulative housekeeper of Maxim's West Country estate of Manderley, where the memory of his first wife, the glamorous and mysterious Rebecca, still casts a shadow.

Raissa Katona Bennett

    An all new season of Concerts for City Greens  (free) outdoor concert series resumes on Wednesday, May 30th at 6:30 pm at Tudor City Greens Park (enter at Tudor City Place between East 42nd and East 43rd Streets). The event features performers from Broadway and the local cabaret/jazz scene, who donate their time and talent to benefit the Parks. The concert will be hosted by Tudor City resident, Broadway and cabaret performer Raissa Katona Bennett (Phantom of the Opera, Chess). This May's season opener concert performers TBA. The Concerts for City Greens, the free outdoor concert series, brings the sounds of live music to diverse urban audiences in unique, privately maintained public green spaces across the city. This popular event is free and open to the public.



 Currently, Feinstein's at Loews Regency Hotel (is presenting the return of Bistro Award-winning jazz vocalist Nicole Henry through Saturday, May 8th through 12th at 8:00 pm, with added late shows at10:30 pm on Friday & Saturday (540 Park Avenue, NYC - 212-339-4095 - )

Yanna Avis


   There are two more chances left to catch stunning international chanteuse Yanna Avis in her sensuous, European-flavored cabaret show at the Metropolitan Room on Wednesdays, May 16 and 30th at 9:30pm. Writing in the New York Times about her recent shows, Stephen Holden referred to her “50s glamor … singing in French, English and German … her husky voice and continental attitude are enough to carry a show … its essence is distilled in a word heard less and less nowadays: chic!” This continental beauty seduces any room she plays around the world and brings back a style that is but a memory.


  Remember: It all happens after dark ...

Marilyn Lovell Matz

April 19:

   Seek goodness everywhere; and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it   be free ... and unashamed (William Saroyan) 

Marilynn Lovell Matz, beloved widow of the late, great arranger/musician Peter Matz died in Los Angeles this week after a 30-year battle with multiple sclerosis. Refusing to allow her illness to define her, Marilyn, an accomplished actress/singer went on to also become a highly regarded psychotherapist dealing mainly with AIDS patients and their caregivers. It was a cause close to her heart.

Marilyn was simply one of those  special people you never forget. She was a singer,and a mainstay on television in the 1950s (a regular on The Liberace Show) and in the 1960s (Broadway musical specials such as The Ziegfeld Touch and Hello, Dolly - 'Round the World, which chronicled her tour playing Mrs. Molloy to Mary Martin's Dolly.)

   As I mentioned, aside from her talents and persuing a career in show business, she would also go on  to become a renown and very respected psychotherapist in L.os Angeles - especially caring for AIDS patients and their caregivers. She and her brilliant musician husband Peter worked up an act and continued to sing throughout  the 1980s and 1990s in an eclectic,  polished  show they performed from living rooms to concert halls to cabarets (she had several highly successful engagements at Eighty Eight's - thanks to her dear friend and co-owner Erv Raible) and at many  benefits for numerous AIDS charities. She was always a highlight of the many benefits in L.A. raising funds  for a variety of charities. Whatever she did and whenever she could, like their album title, Marilyn said it with music. Knowing her was a gift. Her caring spirit and thoughtfulness of others will never be forgotten.

    Through it all, she fought her ongoing  battle with multiple sclerosis for more than three decades. Her  tireless fundraising efforts helped that cause greatly as well.  She passed away peacefully earlier this week as a result of MS.

 More about Marilyn Lovell Matz
Throughout her career, Marilyn Lovell Matz was  a versatile singer and actress,. She was at home in all media, Ms. Lovell's work in film included features roles in "Ghosts of Mississippi" (directed by Rob Reiner), "The Gifted," and "Through A Glass Darkly. "She consistently delighted viewers on major television talk shows, including The Today Show, The Tonight Show, The Dick Cavett Show, The Steve Allen Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Merv Griffin Show.

In theater, Ms. Lovell garnered high praise for her portrayals of Mrs. Molloy in the international company of Hello Dolly!, starring Mary Martin, and of Mrs. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera (Reprise! Broadway in concert series, UCLA). She also triumphed in leading and featured roles in: Screen Test (Skylight Theater); Kiss Me Kate (Sacramento Music Circus); Pal Joey (Northwestern University); The Kitchen (L.A. Actor's Theater); The Hairy Ape (L.A. Actor's Theater); Journey to the Day (Melrose Theater); among other productions.

An ardent supporter of causes in which she believed, she sang at concerts for UNICEF and regularly performed benefit concerts for AIDS Project Los Angeles (including the S.T.A.G.E galas) and Shanti Foundation. She was a spokesperson for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and is the recipient of their Champion of the Arts Award (New York, 1998) and their Hope for MS Award (Los Angeles). A psychology major at UCLA, Ms. Lovell maintained her career as a psychotherapist until a few years ago.

Their house was always hosting and mixing the famous and the struggling. Marilyn and Peter Matz were a match made in heaven ... and now they are.

Marilyn's favorite quote (which opened this column,) was from William Saroyan. is worth repeating.  Those words say it all about the lady and is the only appropriate way to close:  Seek goodness everywhere; and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free - and unashamed.

Marilyn  Peter Matz

Billy Stritch  Marilyn Maye - 2012 MACs - by Genevieve Rafter-Keddy

Ervin  Edith Drake - MAC 2012 - Photos: Joe Marzullo / WENN

 Lifetieme Achievement Honoree Ervin Drake and wife Edith

26th MAC Awards Gala at B.B. King's

Marilyn Maye & Karen Mason - Photo

 Seems like old tiimes. Some names and faces have changed. And, some beloved faces are gone, but, the melody galantly lingers on.

Celebrating March Is Cabaret Month, on Thursday, March 29, the Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs (MAC) held their annual awards ceremony at B.B. King's hosted by Jason Graae. Honoring what they declared The Year of the Songwriter, the evening featured assorted performances and presenters including, Phil Ramone and Lucie Arnaz as well as: Scott Barbarino, Kenny Bell, Anna Bergman, Liz Lark Brown, Mary Foster Conklin, Scott Coulter, Baby Jane Dexter, Natalie Douglas, Kevin Dosier, Bernie Furshpan, Terese Genecco, Kim Grogg, Thomas Harneck, Sean Harkness,  Karen Mason, Marilyn Maye, Julie Miller, Sidney Myer,  Mark Nadler, Christine Pedi, Don Rebic, Julie Reyburn, Sarah Rice,  Ricky Ritzel, Johnny Rodgers, KT Sullivan, Steven Ray Watkins,  Lennie Watts and Amy Wolk.

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Once again, the show was directed by MAC president Lennie Watts and produced by vice-president Julie Miller. Tracy Stark was musical director for the evening.

Lifetime achievements awards were presented to songwriters Ervin Drake and David Friedman. Board of Director awards were also presented to Francesca Blumenthal, John Bucchino and Julie Gold. The Hanson Award was presented to Rosemary Loar.

Among the winners were Marilyn Maye (Celebrity Artist,) Terese Genecco (Major Artist Female or Duo,) Eric Michael Gillett (Major Artist Male,) Janice Hall (Female Vocalist,) T. Oliver Reid (Male Vocalist) and Craig Pomranz (Male Vocalist.) Terese Genecco and Her Little Big Band at The Iridium won for Show Of the Year.

The 2012 winning song award went to He's On His Way, with Music by Robby Stamper and lyrics by Ariana Rose. In the category of Special Musical Material, the award went o Universal Truth with music and lyrics by Bill Zeffiro. The Recording of the Year went to H2 (Sean Harkness and Mike

Herriott) for Home For the Holidays.

Throughout the lively festivities were many inside jokes and shared camaraderie, additional awards were presented to Lauren Fox (New York Female Debut,) T. Oliver Reid (New York Male Debut,) Joan Jaffe (Musical Comedy Performer,) Tommy Femia and Rick Skye (Duo/Group,) Wednesday Night At The Iguana ( Variety Production/Recurring Series,) Salon (Open Mic,) Dana Lorge (Host,) Cabaret Cares (Benefit,) Metrostar Talent Challenge (Revue/Special Production,) Alison Nusbaum (Piano Bar/Restaurant Singer Entertainer,) Bill Zeffiro (Piano Bar Singer Instrumentalist,) Tracy Stark (Musical Director,) peter Napolitano (Director) and Jean-Pierre Perreaux (Technical Director.)