Cleo Laine and John Dankworth
Cleo Laine and John Dankworth
From an audience point of view, the most rewarding of awards shows has got to be cabaret's Back Stage Bistro Awards. Unlike any similar show we're aware of, this one is heavy on entertainment and light on speeches. Here's the novel idea: If you're an award-winning performer, you get up and do a number that shows everyone why. The audience, therefore, gets an entire evening of stunning performances by some of the most talented people working in cabaret today. The Bistros can do this because everyone arrives at the dinner already knowing who won. And, if you look below, you'll know, too.

This annual awards show is an elegant event at the swanky Supper Club that attracts the cream of the cabaret world; it will be held this year on March 5. Many think it's a closed party but, in fact, it's one of the most incredible general-audience bargains around, offering performance quality equal to the best nights of the Cabaret Convention at Town Hall but in far more intimate surroundings. Plus you get a cocktail party (cash bar) before the show where you can mingle with the stars, then a generous buffet dinner afterwards, all for just $60. What's the catch? There are only 150 tickets available to the public. (Information on how to obtain tickets can be found at the end of this article.)

The Bistros are getting special attention this year because The Lifetime Achievement Award is going to Dame Cleo Laine and her musical director husband, John Dankworth, both of whom will be present to accept the honor. Also on hand will be the likes of Polly Bergen, Jason Graae, and Christine Lavin. It's shaping up to be a great evening--and we should know because, along with David Finkle and John Hoglund, we write the Back Stage Bistro Bits column. We all will join with Back Stage editor-in-chief Sherry Eaker, that longstanding friend of cabaret, as hosts of the evening. And the winners are...

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Cabaret Debut:
Kane Alexander at the FireBird Café and Julie Reyburn at Judy*s Chelsea

Jack Donahue
Jack Donahue
Vocalist:
Scott Coulter at Don't Tell Mama; Jack Donahue at the FireBird Café and Cabaret 1050; and Audrey Lavine at the FireBird Café and Judy*s Chelsea

Major Engagement:
Polly Bergen at Feinstein's at the Regency

Musical Comedy:
Jim Caruso at Arci's Place and Jason Graae at Arci's Place

Singer/Songwriter:
Christine Lavin

Musical Revue:
This Life--The Songs of Portia Nelson at Don't Tell Mama, directed by John Znidarsic, musical direction and arrangements by Paul Katz, starring Tom Andersen, Terri Klausner, and Deborah Tranelli with Paul Katz

Special Cabaret Event:
Purpose of Love--A Tim Di Pasqua Songbook at The Triad, an evening of Tim Di Pasqua's music, produced and directed by Michael Levesque, starring Tim Di Pasqua

Performer in a Revue:
Bobby Peaco for Indigo Rat at Upstairs at Rose's Turn

Songwriter:
Francesca Blumenthal

Special Material:
"Bistro Baby" by David Gurland

Musical Direction:
Mark Hartman

Technical Direction::
Michael Barbieri at Judy*s Chelsea

Comedy Performer:
Cory Kahaney

Variety Show:
Ron Poole for Poole Party! At Don't Tell Mama

Unique Entertainment:
Marc Salem for Mind Games and All That Jazz at Feinstein's at the Regency

Michael Feinstein
Michael Feinstein
Recording:
Michael Feinstein for Romance on Film, Romance on Broadway

Special Awards:
Ervin Drake, a gifted songwriter whose work has been embraced by cabaret and who has, in turn, embraced cabaret with his abundant support; and the Joe's Pub Songbook Series for exploring, perpetuating, and enhancing the ever-expanding Great American Songbook

Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award:
Dame Cleo Laine and John Dankworth

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Tickets to the Bistro Awards @ $60.00 are available at Back Stage, 770 Broadway (at 9th Street), 6th floor, weekdays from 11am to 5:30pm (cash, check or credit card). Credit card purchases may also be made by phoning 646-654-5740 or through www.backstage.com. A portion of the receipts will benefit the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative.