The Little Convention That Could

The Little Convention That Could When K.T. Sullivan crossed the Town Hall stage in 1989 for the First Annual New York City Cabaret Con-vention, the kittenish soprano recalls, “There was a smattering of people in the house—like four rows of people. As a matter of fact, I remember looking out and seeing this friend of mine sitting in the fifth row and thinking, ‘He’s got the whole row to himself!’ I had no idea that one day we’d be doing it to packed houses.”

When K.T. Sullivan crossed the Town Hall stage in 1989 for the First Annual New York City Cabaret Con-vention, the kittenish soprano recalls, “There was a smattering of people in the house—like four rows of people. As a matter of fact, I remember looking out and seeing this friend of mine sitting in the fifth row and thinking, ‘He’s got the whole row to himself!’ I had no idea that one day we’d be doing it to packed houses.”

Indeed, the popularity of the yearly event—which will convene Oct-ober 21 27 at New York’s historic Town Hall on West 44th Street—now brings in patrons by the thousands. And from all corners of the world. “They fly in from everywhere,” says the convention’s creator and producer, Donald Smith. “Last year, they came from 37 states and 11 countries. London, New Orleans, Iceland! Some people even schedule their work vacations around the convention. It’s amazing.”

Thematically, this year’s program will continue the centennial celebration of the birth of Richard Rodgers by presenting a roster of stars with links to the legendary composer. Not only will Carousel’s original Billy Bigelow, John Raitt, re-create his famous soliloquy, but Oklahoma!’s first Ado Annie, Celeste Holm, will reclaim her show-stopping solo, “I Cain’t Say No.” Furthermore, Holm, who was an early replacement for Gertrude Lawrence in the original Broadway production of The King and I, will be joined onstage at the convention by a generations-long parade of Annas, including Donna Mur phy, Maureen McGovern and the 89-year-old Patricia Morison, who starred in the first national tour of the musical.

Star-studded as this may be, Sullivan—who’ll be featured along with Karen Akers, Christine Andreas and Karen Mason in the Oct. 27 evening “Four Ladies of Song”—says that ultimately, “People in the cabaret world tend to be pretty tight with each other. The convention is a great way of catching up with everyone. It keeps you on campus.”

** Jackie, Oh! She says she’s been in search of a wider audience. And, now, with the Broadway success of Hairspray, Obie Award-winning singer actress-comedienne Jackie Hoffman is finding it. While playing an assortment of scene-stealing oddballs in Hairspray continues to enthrall her, Hoffman is getting a bit itchy to reclaim her downtown cabaret roots. “I share the stage with 32 people every night,” Hoffman mockingly kvetches, “just give me an hour by myself!” With David Brunetti on piano, catch Jackie’s wacky brand of satiric songs and stand-up at Joe’s Pub on Oct. 20 and 27 before the mainstream whisks her away; call (212) 539-8778.