Sherry Eaker
Sherry Eaker
Most awards shows are an endless round of speeches, punctuated by a rare display of entertainment. Not the Bistro Awards. This is the event where the winners in performance categories are given the opportunity to display the talent that brought them their prizes. On Monday, March 4, the 2002 Bistro Awards Show took place at The Supper Club and 16 of the 24 winning acts performed one number each in front of a crowd that surpassed 400. The show itself surpassed three hours and 20 minutes in length, but there was an award for sitting through it: a generous buffet supper at the conclusion.

Who gives the Bistro Awards? Well, we do, along with our two "Bistro Bits" column colleagues at Back Stage, David Finkle and John Hoglund. The show was produced and hosted by the paper's editor-in-chief, Sherry Eaker, and directed by Tom Mills.

The Bistros traditionally mark the beginning of Cabaret Month in New York, which comes to its conclusion with the MAC Awards (scheduled this year for April 1 at Town Hall). While the MAC Awards are competitive and given on the basis of a popular vote by the organization's membership, the Bistros are bestowed on a non-competitive basis (i.e., there can be multiple winners in any category if the quality of the work deserves to be recognized). Also, categories are often created--as they were this year--to reward excellence wherever we find it. The only caveat is that no one can win a Bistro twice in the same category.

As co-presenters of the awards and part of the show, we didn't actually see or hear very much of it. We were nonetheless aware that the guest emcee, comedian Jim David, got huge laughs...and we were impressed that he graciously asked Barbara if he might make a joke about her being dressed like a gypsy. Barbara said, "Sure!" (After the show, more than two-dozen people asked her to tell their fortunes.)

The evening's parade of talented entertainers began with Donna McKechnie (Outstanding Major Engagement) and ended with Blossom Dearie (cited for Lifetime Achievement). For the first time, a cash prize accompanied one of the honors: Jim Tatum put up the money to go along with the Comedy award as a way of honoring the late Donna Coe, who wrote the "Laughing Matters" column for Back Stage. Colette Hawley won the award and the dinero.

Finally, there was one ovation loud enough for us to hear it backstage: It was for our predecessor as a "Bistro Bits" columnist, Roy Sander, who was given a special award for his excellence as a cabaret critic. His dedication to the art form and to its artists was rightfully recognized and cheered. Congratulations to Roy and to all the winners, who are listed below in the order in which they were announced during the event:

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Donna McKechnie, Outstanding Major Engagement
Johnny Rodgers, Outstanding New York Debut
Frans Bloem, Outstanding Vocalist
Arci's Place, Special Award for its Inspired Programming, Professionalism, and Hospitality
Mark McCombs, Outstanding Characterization
Lennie Watts, Outstanding Director
Jay Leonhart, Outstanding Singer/Songwriter/Instrumentalist
Craig Rubano, Outstanding Vocalist
Kane Alexander and Christopher Denny, Outstanding Collaboration on the Arrangement of a Song: "These Foolish Things"
Modern Man (David Buskin, Rob Carlson, and George Wurzbach), Outstanding Musical Comedy
Colette Hawley, Outstanding Comedy Performer
Mark Janas, Outstanding Musical Direction
Karen Oberlin, Outstanding Vocalist
Johnny Frigo, Outstanding Contribution to a Performance, Phillip Officer's Hoagy On My Mind
George Sanders, Continuing Excellence in Piano Bar Entertainment
Sam Harris, Outstanding Major Engagement
Jean-Pierre Perreaux, Outstanding Technical Direction
Lea DeLaria, Outstanding Recording: "Play it Cool"
A.J. Irvin, Outstanding Piano Bar Entertainer
D.C. Anderson, Outstanding Singer/Songwriter
Gina Caruso, Outstanding Concept Show, Gina Caruso Does Forman Brown
Scott Coulter, Steven Ray Watkins, and Lennie Watts, Outstanding Group Show: Heart & Music
Roy Sander, Special Award for Years of Insightful Analysis, Constructive Criticism, and Dedication to Cabaret
Blossom Dearie, the Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award