[Ed Note: A complete list of the 2001 MAC Award winners, announced April 1, has been appended to the end of this report by Barbara & Scott Siegel, filed last week.]
The 15th annual MAC Awards cremony takes place on April 1 at 7:30 pm at Town Hall and, unlike the Best Actress Award at the Oscars, almost every MAC category is hotly contested. In a community with so much talent, choosing one artist over another is no easy task. This year the nominations are widely spread among all the clubs, suggesting that MAC members follow the talent wherever it may go.
Most of the categories are straightforward and the nominees within them make perfect sense. Every year, however, MAC is faced with shows that don't seem to fit any single definition. This year, there is a category called "Musical Theatre & Comedy Duo/Group." Huh? The three nominees in that category are Scott Barbarino & The Bev Naps, Indigo Rat, and The Next Big Broadway Musical. This isn't a case of apples and oranges; it's more like meat and dairy. Either way, it ain't kosher. (But it sure is tasty.) Another change from the past is the proliferation of CD categories. Where once there was one category, now there are four. It's ironic that an organization that's all about live entertainment has devoted one-sixth of its awards to recordings; this surely reflects the explosive growth in the number of CDs made by members of the cabaret community.
Nancy McGraw, producer of this year's MAC Awards, told us that the show will open with a number called "Stars in the Bars," featuring five of New York's top piano bar entertainers. Among the other expected highlights will be performances by John McDaniel, Carol Woods, Mary Cleere Haran, Julie Budd, Sam Harris, and Lifetime Achievement Award-winner Rosemary Clooney. The high profile presenters include Cy Coleman, Michele Lee, Erv Raible, Susannah McCorkle, Eileen Fulton, Margaret Whiting, Julie Wilson, and...Susan Lucci! For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 212-307-4100 or The Town Hall Box Office 212-840-2824.
The intimate FireBird Café was aflame with talent when it recently hosted the MAC Awards Nominees' Party. It was our chance to clink glasses with this year's most lauded lads and lasses of cabaret. We talked to as many of the partygoers as possible about their nominations. Here is a collage of their comments:
"The funny thing is that I'm nominated with one of my best friends, Karen Mack," said David Gurland, nominated in the Pop/R&B Vocals category. "We're going to have a fight during the show just to make things interesting." Gurland is also up for an award for "Bistro Baby" song parody. "That was a real surprise," he said, but the fact is that there are a number of double nominees this year, e.g. Karen Mack (also for her CD), Craig Rubano (for Male Debut and his CD), Barry Kleinbort (for Song of the Year and Directing), and Jeanne MacDonald (for Female Vocalist and for her CD).
MacDonald, a former Hanson Award winner, has been nominated three times in the Female Vocalist category. "My father says I'm becoming the Susan Lucci of the MAC Awards," she laughed, "and that wouldn't be a terrible thing." As it turned out, Lucci's name came up quite often during the cocktail party, and not because she's going to be at Town Hall presenting an award to John McDaniel. Larry Woodard said, "This is my third or fourth nomination. If I keep this up, I'll be the Susan Lucci of the MAC Awards." And Lauri Krauz, nominated for the third time, said, "I'm shooting for Susan Lucci status." When asked if she'd be ready with a speech if she won, Krauz won our hearts with her outrage at people who have nothing to say when accepting their awards. "We're artists," she said. "We're supposed to be prepared to perform. I don't anticipate winning, but I'll be ready if I do."
James Beaman's ready, too. "It's my fourth nomination, and people think I've already gotten a MAC Award," he said wryly. "That's actually flattering, because people seem to feel that I've reached a certain level in my career. I hope they figure out that I haven't won before, and that they'll want to give it to me this time! On the other hand, after four nominations you stop expecting anything and you just go to have a good time. I've got a great tuxedo to wear that night. Showing off the clothes--that's what it's all about!"
Then there are the folks who couldn't have been nominated before, because they made their debuts this year. Vickie Smith, a Female Debut nominee, said, "It's a dream come true. I never in a million years expected this when I first started singing for my grandmother." Julie Reyburn told us that she was "dumbfounded" to have been nominated in the same category. "I'm very excited that the community embraced me," she said. "I'm so glad that a lot of people understood what I was trying to accomplish."
Australian Kane Alexander, nominated in the Male Debut category, marveled: "It's amazing to think that all of this can happen in one year. It blows me away." When asked how his success in New York compares to his experiences in Australia, Alexander laughed and declared that "Australian cabaret is New York cabaret, because everyone comes here!" Kristopher McDowell told us that he was "shocked" at his Male Debut nomination, explaining that "I thought my album had a better chance than the act did." Looking to the future, he said, "Cabaret is a stepping stone, a springboard, and the nomination is so encouraging."
Time and again, performers simply glowed over the company they were keeping in their respective categories. "Me and Pitz [John Pizzarelli] and Billy Stritch," said Major Jazz Vocalist nominee Judy Barnett. "It's a winner no matter what happens to any of us." Sammy Goldstein, nominated for Musical Comedy, said, "I'm thrilled to be with Amanda [Green] and Jim [Caruso] in this category." Natalie Gamsu, a Female Vocalist nominee along with Jeanne MacDonald and Audrey Lavine, said, "That already feels like a platform for me." It was impossible to disagree with Lavine when she chimed in to note that "There are a lot of mutual admiration societies in this room."
At least one of the nominees expressed mixed feelings about the competitive aspect of the awards. Richard Skipper, one of the hopefuls in the Impersonation/ Characterization category said, "It's nice to be nominated with Tommy [Femia] and James [Beaman]." But then Skipper said: "We're very good friends, and it feels horrible to be pitted against each other this way. What I would love to see happen is that, after the nominees are selected from the original ballot, we'd have a big party like the Bistro Awards. That's the ideal way of doing it."
There's no easy way to categorize the work of John-Richard Thompson, nominated this year for creating the unique musical theater piece Indigo Rat. He's two for two with MAC nominations, having previously been honored in this fashion for Erik & the Snow Maidens. "I appreciate that people spend some time to find a category to shove me into," Thompson said. He noted that the nomination means a lot at the box office, describing it as "absolutely valuable, even if we don't win. Getting the name out there helps. One of our cast members won a Bistro Award and our audience doubled overnight after that."
Daryl Sherman, nominated in the Piano Bar Entertainer category, appreciates the nod. "There are so many people around town who have been working the hotels for a long time and have not been acknowledged," she said. "I hope that [the award in this category] will throw light on the performers who have been out there in the trenches."
A good many of this year's nominees were past MAC Award winners, and the glow refuses to fade. Michael Barbieri, who won twice before as a member of the group Scott Barbarino & The Bev Naps, sweetly said, "It's nice to be nominated for my lighting work because that's where my passion lies." Scott Barbarino himself, who won twice before and, like the Yankees is going for a threepeat, said: "The first one is a real thrill. And it's still fun."
The irrepressible Mark Nadler, nominated this year with KT Sullivan for their show American Rhapsody, has already taken home four awards. When we mentioned that he seems to flower at the MACs, he shot back, "Only when I win!" On reflection, he said, "It's true that I had a good speech the first year I won. I really think I won the next year not for my show, but for best speech at the previous award ceremony." This year, Nadler said, he withdrew his name from consideration in the Musical Comedy category because he won it three times in a row. "I get tired of seeing the same people win year after year," he told us frankly, "no matter how deserving they are. What's exciting about cabaret is that there are always new people who come along."
MAC AWARD WINNERS, 2001
Female Vocalist: Audrey Lavine
Major Female Vocalist: Karen Mason
Male Vocalist: Scott Coulter
Major Male Vocalist: Michael Feinstein
Variety Production: Poole Party
Female Comedy Performer: Nancy Witter
Male Comedy Performer: Ron Poole
Musical Comedy Performer: Jim Caruso
Major Stand-Up Comedy: Mario Cantone
Musical Theatre & Comedy Duo/Group: "Indigo Rat"
Duo/Vocal Group: The Accidentals
Jazz Performer: Natalie Douglas
Major Jazz Performer: Billy Stritch
Pop/R&B Vocals: Karen Mack
Female New York Debut: Julie Reyburn
Male New York Debut: Kane Alexander
Impersonation/Characterization: Tommy Femia, Judy Garland Live
Piano Bar/Lounge Entertainer: Jerry Scott
Musical Director: Christopher Denny
Director: Barry Kleinbort
Technical Director: Shawn Moninger
Recording, Various Artists: Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino
Recording, Duo/Musical Group: The Sweetest Sounds of Richard Rodgers, KT Sullivan with Larry Woodard
Recording, Solo Female: Julie Wilson: The Cy Coleman Songbook
Recording, Solo Male: Craig Rubano, Finishing the Act
Revue of The Year: American Rhapsody, Mark Nadler and KT Sullivan
Song of the Year: "I Am Home," Karen Mack
Special Material of the Year: "Wicked Woman," Francesca Blumenthal
Hanson Award: Michel Hermon