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A CurtainUp Feature
The 2006 Nightlife Awards
By Elyse Sommer
If like me you don't have time to take in New York's chockfull of talent cabaret scene, Scott Siegel's Nightlife Awards is just the ticket to sample the creme-de-la creme all in one sitting. The Awards Event is short on speeches and long on entertainment. The finalists, instead of causing our eyes to glaze over as they thank everyone from their third grade teacher to mom, dad and their pet poodle, simply come on stage and perform. Though the presenters, all major talents in their own right, are allowed brief introductions, many of them also entertain.
The Awards presentations, now in their third year are, like the Scott Siegel's popular Broadway By the Year and Broadway Unplugged series, are held held at Town Hall. The February 6th event featured more stars than the sky at the Hayden Planetarium, as well as the remarkable and sometimes still up and coming talent on which these awards shine the spotlight.
Probably the biggest ticket selling draws were two legendary divas -- Nightlife Legend honoree Eartha Kitt and Elaine Stritch winner in the category of Outstanding Cabaret Female Vocalist in a Major Engagement. Kitt rendered a purr-fect "C'Est Si Bon." Stritch, in a fire engine red dress that didn't leave an inch of her famous great legs unexposed, broke the no speech rule so entertainingly that noone made a move to rush her off-stage.
For the dessert to top the multi-course entertainment feast, Marin Mazzie introduced Brian Stokes Mitchell, Outstanding Cabaret Male Vocalist in a Major Encagement and her co-star in the about to open Encores revival of Kismet. His decision to add a famous Siegel evening touch by singing "This Nearly Was Mine" unplugged. made for a grand finale.
If there was one person who came in for pans rather than praises it was George W. Bush who was amusingly bashed by Bill Burr, the Outstanding Male Standup Comedian, who drolly insisted that he liked G.W. because "he makes me feel that I could be president too " since to him "he sounds like a little kid giving a book report but didn't read the book." One of the presenter-performers, the sexy Lotte Lenya-like Ute Lemper, ended her terrific "Liar, Liar, Liar" with an add-on Bush-targeted verse.
A very different Busch (and not just because he spells it with a C), the one and only Charles Busch, did his presentation elegantly put together in a long gown and auburn wig. Another very funny and unique skit came from Outstanding Female Standup Comedian winner, Kristen Schaal, who did a droll bit about auditioning for a part as a fat grocer in a Law and Order segment. The winning comic duo A Little Traveling Music brought back the days of vaudeville with a zesty "Mention My Name in Sheboygan" and the elegant, international flavor of the Kabaret Kollektif proved itself more than worthy of the Unique Cabaret Performance award.
Given that the entertainment goes on for three hours, it's obvious that this report can only touch on some of the many highlights. The overall feeling these awards left me with was awe at the variety of available talent making up the night life scene -- and the dedication of Scott Siegel, his wife Barbara and the twenty-five other critics to championing cabaret entertainment.
For a list of all the winners and finalists, click the Nightlife Award header in our Omnibus Awards Page. For details about this year's e Broadway by the Year series go here.
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