On April 12th the Manhattan Association of Cabarets presented the thirty-sixth annual MAC Awards. The organization handed out thirty-three trophies – some honors like Lifetime Achievement Awards and Board of Directors Awards were bestowed by committee, while others were voted on by cardholders in the membership-based organization. Artists from the cabaret community dressed in their celebratory best and filled the chairs at the Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where the indefatigable staff of the venue was most diligent in their efforts to remind guests of the prudence of remaining masked for the entire evening.
With a start time of 7 pm, the MAC members arrived early to visit with one another before the actual awards were handed out, and the program was off to a promising start, with Jeff Harnar opening the show with a musical number led by Jon Weber, sharing the stage with Musical Director Yasuhiko Fukuoka, Josh Roberts on drums, and Sean Murphy on guitar. It was a splendid foreshadowing of what might have been a fine night but that, sadly, ended up being an uncomfortable evening without food or water, lasting over four hours. By the third hour, presenters prefaced their award-show banter with comments like “Good morning!” and “We’re almost there!” and award recipients abbreviated their speeches with qualifiers like “I’ll be quick because it’s late and we should all be sleeping.” It was a sad state of affairs that marred what might, otherwise, have been a memorable evening, but that most will simply remember as the MAC Awards that was longer than a Lord of the Rings movie. It was an unfortunate miscalculation in over-programming the show’s entertainment with too many musical numbers and unnecessary, lengthy video presentations. There is a point at which being ambitious becomes a hindrance to the enjoyment of an event like this, and this was one of those occasions. Naturally, the MAC organization had no control over the length of acceptance speeches but it would have been wise to have a protocol in place for award recipients so inconsiderate as to believe that a speech longer than five minutes is even remotely acceptable – perhaps the producer and director of the show could have arranged something akin to when the Oscars begin playing music to flag a winner that they have overstayed their welcome. Hopefully, a lesson was learned on this night, and future presentations of the Award Ceremony will be more carefully planned, with fewer production numbers, with zero video presentations, with presenters being urged to err on the side of brevity rather than lean into the need for cleverness, and with winners being cautioned on the disrespect of embarrassingly voluble speeches.
Performance highlights of the evening included Nicolas King’s tribute to Mike Renzi, Julie Gold’s tribute to Nanci Griffith, THOSE GIRLS’ tribute to Rick Jensen, and the always astonishing Sidney Myer singing “Peel Me A Grape.”
Acceptance speech highlights included first-time winners Rian Keating, Roderick Ferguson, Mardie Millit, and, especially, her husband Michael Garin who simply tearfully thanked the love of his life, Mardie. A particularly special moment occurred when teary-eyed presenter Tommy J. Dose gave the MAC Award for Piano Bar/Restaurant Singing Entertainer Male to his friend, the equally teary-eyed and totally caught-off-guard Brian Kalinowski.
Klea Blackhurst deserves a prize, herself, for awards-presenter patter admonishing winners to kindly avoid the absurd tendency to say that their win is unexpected. “There are three names on this envelope – there’s a one in three chance you will win. This isn’t unexpected.” Appreciative waves of laughter and applause rolled up to Blackhurst on the stage for her humor and honesty.
Best-dressed for the evening included the women of THOSE GIRLS in individually appropriate cocktail black, Flotilla DeBarge in a shock of royal blue ruffles, Leanne Borghesi in Tuxedo Couture, Darnell White in flowing beige tunic, Dorian Woodruff in purple velvet and gold jewelry, Aaron Lee Battle in dapper gold brocade, Yasuhiko Fukuoka in sleek tailored suit, Tara Martinez in sassy black cocktail dress, Anna Anderson in head-to-toe silver sparkle, Lorinda Lisitza in two different but matching gowns for the red carpet and for the stage, and MAC President Amy Wolk in black pantsuit and varying shoes, depending on whether she was being a stage manager or presenter.
Especially moving was nearly back-to-back presentations in which Velvet-draped Linda Lavin introduced the Show of the Year Award to natty Jim Caruso, who, minutes later, presented chic Chita Rivera with her own honor. It was a strong display of family in the arts and the importance of continuity and solidarity.
The ultimate highlights of the evening, though, were the two Lifetime Achievement recipients, Marta Sanders (who accepted her award at the end of Act One) and Miss Chita Rivera (who was honored near the end of Act Two). Both ladies gave speeches that were elegant and eloquent, inspiring and entertaining, and both stars were the epitome of grace and glamor, and even Broadway maven Ben Cameron remarked on the marvel that is Marta, after seeing Sanders perform two songs best described as Boffo.
Broadway World Cabaret salutes all of the cabaret artists who were singled out by the MAC community by way of nominations for their work, congratulates those who took home trophies, and invites Broadway World readers to enjoy photojournalist Helane Blumfield’s photographic documentary, below, of the 36th annual MAC Awards.
The MAC Award trophy distributors were Analisa Bell and Can Yasar, and can be seen in several of these photos.
For a complete list of winners click HERE.
See Genevieve Rafter Keddy’s red carpet photography HERE.
About Helane Blumfield:
THEY CALL ME H. I love what I do and do what I love. Create amazing content. Wow, the world. Have fun doing it. My mantra, my way. It all happens when passion is your driver and your inner fire is ignited. How lucky am I to have been able to apply these simple guides to my life work! I am a nationally recognized creative visionary who has navigated the world of design and advertising most recently as the SVP Creative for Macy’s. My passion for expression continues to explore new possibilities in visual communications and performance. Now inspired by the cabaret community I have once again found myself behind the lens and I couldn’t be any more excited.