George Gershwin, Dorothy Fields, and Dietz & Schwartz will all have their day in the sun -- or, more accurately, their evening in New York's Town Hall Theater -- when the Eighth Annual Manhattan Cabaret Convention gets underway Oct. 13.
Sponsored by the Mabel Mercer Foundation and its executive director, Donald Smith, the Convention began as a one-night celebration and has since expanded to a weeklong festival. This year's festivities start Oct. 13 with a gala opening night, featuring such luminaries as Barbara Carroll, Amanda McBroom, Sharon McKnight (Starmites), Liliane Montevecchi, Phillip Officer, Linda Purl, Julie Wilson and Christian Nova.
More cabaret talents will be on hand Oct. 14, such as Lis Asher, Natalie Douglas, Eric Michael Gillett, comedian Angela LaGreca, Sidney Myer and Carla White.
Oct. 15 brings a special program, "Lyrics On Several Occasions: The Lyrics Of Ira Gershwin," produced and directed by David Staller. Singing the Gershwin tunes will be Tovah Feldshuh, Debbie Gravitte, Claiborne Cary, Jeff Harner, Spider Saloff, Weslia Whitfield and Sara Zahn.
The next night is devoted to the lyrics of Dorothy Fields. Subtitled "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," the program Oct. 16 features Lucie Arnaz, Alix Korey (No Way To Treat A Lady), Marcia Lewis (Chicago), Annie Ross, Karen Saunders, Margaret Whiting (Dream, and Karen Ziemba (Steel Pier). Hosted by Mary Cleere Haran and Deborah Grace Wiener, who wrote the recent Fields bio, "On The Sunny Side Of The Street." "Dancing In The Dark: The Words & Music Of Howard Dietz & Arthur Schwartz," arrives Oct. 17, produced and directed by the Mercer Foundation's Donald Smith. Eric Comstock, Meg MacKay, Michael Murphy, Billy Philadelphia, Billy Stritch, KT Sullivan (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and Dane Vannatter star.
The "Saturday Spectacular" takes hold Oct. 18, with Julie Anthony, Rodney Bennett, Mary Foster Conklin, Baby Jane Dexter, Natalie Gamsu, Albert Hague (of "Fame" fame) and Joel Silberman.
Closing the convention Oct. 19 will be a tribute to the 50th anniversary of five classic musicals: Allegro, Brigadoon, Finian's Rainbow, High Button Shoes and Street Scene. David Campbell, Lee Roy Reams and Donald Saddler will be joined by other cabaret talents in songs from this venerable quintet of shows.
Asked about the value of the Cabaret Conventions, New York Post cabaret critic Chip Deffaa told Playbill On-Line, "I think they're a wonderful and unique opportunity to see a lot of talent, both up and coming and established, in one space. You might see someone do two songs and it would encourage you to see the rest of their act another time. It's also a good opportunity for industry professionals to scout talent. I'm as curious about the newcomers making their first appearances as the veterans. Sometimes the composers perform, or someone who's elderly and can't do a full gig anymore but can do one or two songs from a show they were in years ago. If you're a theatre buff that's terrific stuff."
All shows at the Convention begin at 6 PM at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan. All tickets are $10 per night. For information call (212) 980-3026.
--By David Lefkowitz