Okay, so the 16th annual MAC Awards Show was long. Awards shows are supposed to be long. Well, maybe not that long--not four hours. But if MAC erred this year, at least it did so in the right direction, putting more nominees and recent winners up on The Town Hall stage than ever before. The show boasted some big-name talent intended to draw in a larger crowd, but the focus of the evening's entertainment was very much on performers who could most benefit from the exposure of singing in front of a large crowd.

In a show beset by far too many lighting and sound snafus, the celebratory spirit of the evening still prevailed. Host Ron Poole charmed the crowd with his humorous banter. He was a winning presence, and also an award winner, taking home two MACS in the categories of Major Standup Comedy and Variety Production (for his show Poole Party). And he wasn't the only multiple award winner during the evening. Among the other two-timers were Klea Blackhurst (the TimeOut Award and Female Vocalist) and Jim Caruso (Male Musical Comedy and Male Artist Recording of the Year). Then there was three-timer Lennie Watts (Director and Special Production/Musical Comedy Group, plus he won a seat on the MAC board of directors as member-at-large). Watts, who had never received a MAC before, joked that he wished the voters had spread out their largesse over the past 10 years.

While some complain about long acceptance speeches, we find that they are often the most memorable part of an awards show. Happily for us, many of the winners blissfully ignored the dictum to keep their remarks short. One of the evening's most heartfelt speeches was made by Heather Mac Rae (Female Artist Recording of the Year), who unabashedly thanked John Jerome--currently jailed and charged with embezzlement--for his many kindnesses. But the very best "thank you" was made by Karen Akers, winner of the Board of Directors Award, who showed her gratitude by singing the beautiful ballad "Unusual Way" from Nine as a valentine to the audience. Her performance was the highest highlight of a night that featured quite a few memorable moments.

The marathon started with the six musical comedy nominees sharing the stage in a hilarious piece of special material by Rick Crom that ended with them singing "MAC-lahoma!" One sixth of a day later, Lifetime Achievement Award winner Bucky Pizzarelli and his son John scored with their "Honeysuckle Rose" guitar duet. One of the most thrilling moments in between was a vocal duet by 2001 award winners Audrey Lavine and Scott Coulter.

The MAC Award
The MAC Award
Not all of the musical numbers worked. Performing "Luck Be a Lady," Phillip Officer, Charles Cermele, and Billy Stritch had very little luck of their own: The volume level on officer's microphone was so low that it might as well have been off, and both Officer and Cermele were bedeviled by missed lighting cues. So, too, Donna McKechnie performed an entire number ("One for My Baby") with the spotlight operator unable to locate her face. But, speaking of faces, the punim that wowed the crowd was briefly splashed up on the Town Hall movie screen. There, bigger than life, was cabaret's own Sidney Myer, captured on film singing a song in the 1980 mega-flop movie Headin' to Broadway. Recognizing Myer, the audience went wild.

It was that kind of up-and-down evening. At post-show parties, from Bistro 43 (next door to Town Hall) to Orso's and Don't Tell Mama on West 46th Street, revelers both reviled and revered the show. Reactions were all over the place, from disgust with the technical screw-ups to great pride in MAC's showcasing of talent. Regardless of one's take on the event, it was clear that producer Barry Levitt pushed the MAC Awards toward becoming a more inclusive celebration of the cabaret community than it has been in the past. Changes must still be made. For example, the idea of combining current nominees into large group numbers has its limitations because cabaret artists, as a rule, tend to not blend well; Baby Jane Dexter is not a trio sort of gal. Of course, the sound and lighting also need to be improved; it's frustrating to have great singers on hand if they can't be heard or seen, and the MAC Awards ceremony demonstrated that there are, in fact, enormous numbers of talented cabaret performers who deserve to be heard and seen in this important forum

Below is a full list of the winners of the 2002 MAC Awards:

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FEMALE VOCALIST:
Klea Blackhurst, Danny's, Jack Rose

MAJOR FEMALE VOCALIST:
Julie Wilson, Algonquin, Cinegrill, Plush Room

MALE VOCALIST:
Craig Rubano, Laurie Beechman

MAJOR MALE VOCALIST:
Sam Harris, Arci's

FEMALE MUSICAL COMEDY:
Joan Crowe, Arci's, Don't Tell Mama

MALE MUSICAL COMEDY:
Jim Caruso, Arci's

FEMALE JAZZ/POP/R&B VOCALIST:
Sue Matsuki, Arci's, Don't Tell Mama, Judy's

MAJOR FEMALE JAZZ/POP/R&B VOCALIST:
Baby Jane Dexter, Arci's

FEMALE NEW YORK DEBUT:
Stacy Sullivan, FireBird, Danny's

MALE NEW YORK DEBUT:
Johnny Rodgers, Arci's

FEMALE STAND-UP COMEDY:
Colette Hawley

MALE STAND-UP COMEDY:
Rock Albers

MAJOR STAND-UP COMEDY:
Ron Poole

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR:
Shawn Moninger, Don't Tell Mama

DIRECTOR:
Lennie Watts, Karen Mack & Michael Holland, Mark McCombs

MUSICAL DIRECTOR:
David Maiocco, James Beaman & Goldie Dver, Eric Pickering, Tommy Femia & Christine Pedi, Richard Skipper

IMPERSONATION/CHARACTERIZATION:
Richard Skipper, Carol Channing

VARIETY PRODUCTION:
Poole Party: Ron Poole

PIANO BAR/RESTAURANT INSTRUMENTALIST:
Bobby Peaco, Don't Tell Mama, Rose's Turn

PIANO BAR/RESTAURANT SINGING ENTERTAINER:
Eric Pickering, Don't Tell Mama

SINGER/INSTRUMENTALIST:
John Bucchino, FireBird

VOCAL GROUP/DUO:
Karen Mack & Michael Holland, Don't Tell Mama

REVUE OF THE YEAR:
James Beaman & Goldie Dver, Crazy World: Songs of Leslie Bricusse

SPECIAL PRODUCTION/MUSICAL COMEDY GROUP:
Lennie Watts, Scott Coulter, Heart & Music

FEMALE ARTIST RECORDING OF THE YEAR:
Heather Mac Rae, Songs For My Father

FEMALE MAJOR ARTIST RECORDING OF THE YEAR:
Karen Mason, When the Sun Comes Out

MALE ARTIST RECORDING OF THE YEAR:
Jim Caruso, Caruso Live and In Person

MALE MAJOR ARTIST RECORDING OF THE YEAR:
Phillip Officer, Hoagy On My Mind

MULTIPLE ARTISTS RECORDING OF THE YEAR:
Jamie deRoy & Friends, 'Tis the Season

SONG OF THE YEAR:
"Welcome the Rain," music by Zina Goldrich, lyrics by Marcy Heisler

SPECIAL MATERIAL OF THE YEAR:
"Where's Shirley?", music by John McMahon, lyrics by Jay Jefferies