The Bistro Awards ceremony is 25 years old, and since it’s my first time attending I didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t start well. The event started well over 30 minutes late, due to the evident lack of a proper seating plan. Even though I had reservations with a table number, that table was already full and I was left standing until the 4th awardee went on. I can forgive that – it happens. What I cannot forgive is almost 4 hours of speeches.
Ok, I exaggerate, a little. It was more like 3 hours and 45 minutes. I admit that I’ve been spoiled by the wonderful Nightlife Awards (see my review here), held recently. Since the awards were announced weeks before, all the winners had to do was to go on stage and perform! No long "Thank Yous." What a concept! All award shows should run to copy this formula.
Aside from a few missed cues and wrong info cards, the evening went smoothly. Of the winners who did perform, there were some great performances. Loli Marquez-Sterling did a wonderful number that gave us the flair of the Latin Quarter of old. Alan Cumming’s very funny “American” had the audience laughing, as did Tovah Feldshuh’s hysterical parody honoring the Bistros and her dead pan recitation of Ivana Trump's book for Celebrity Autobiography. Cheyenne Jackson reminded us why we love him as did Liz Callaway, Sarah Rice and, of course, Gretchen Reinhagen. Other notables were Danielle Grabianowski, Anne Steele, Julie Reyburn and rounding out the evening, Brett Kristofferson, Mark Janas, I’ve Got a Little Twist, Lee Summers, Richard Eisenberg and the amazing Raissa Katona Bennett and friends. Marilyn Sokol’s bit in Spanish was beyond words and co-host Jim David rocked his few moments of comedy on stage, going as far as razzing Michael Feinstein’s absence from the ceremony. Then there were the greats, Donna McKechnie, Elaine Stritch and Mitzi Gaynor.
With all that talent in one room, what could be bad? The speeches, the unending speeches. Some awardees went on as long as 10-15 minutes. There was no red light or 20-piece orchestra to play them off so they went on and on and on. I would much rather have heard them perform, since that’s what we are awarding them for.
Which brings up another issue. While I understand that some celebrities are very busy people, running from one event to another and may have had something else to attend that same evening, The Bistro Awards have a unique quality about them. They honor both the very famous, and the not-yet-so-very-famous. Why was it that some awardees got up to accept their awards and then packed up and left? It almost looked like those who didn’t leave stayed, because they hadn’t received their awards yet. We talk about supporting the Cabaret community - how is that supporting the community? Whether you are getting an award or attending as a guest, you should stay and honor all the participants.
One idea might be to schedule the celebrity honorees at the end of the show. That way everyone would be inclined to stick it out until the very end. Of course, cutting the lengthy speeches would then be a must. Think about it – it just might make you want to attend more award shows, since they would be performance oriented and, well, FUN!
Directed by Eric Michael Gillett, produced by Sherry Eaker, Richard Skipper associate producer. Hosted by Sherry Eaker, with co-hosts Klea Blackhurst, comic Jim David and actress-comedienne Marilyn Sokol. David Brian Colbert was the Stage Manager and Sound and Lighting by the always spot on, Jean Pierre Perreaux.
The Bistro Awards Committee is comprised of: Elizabeth Ahlfors, Sherry Eaker, David Finkle, Rob Lester, Erv Raible and Roy Sander.
The complete list of winners follows in order of presentation:
Loli Marquez-Sterling/Entertainer/ The Triad, The Metropolitan Room
Alan Cumming/Recording, I Bought a Blue Car Today
Liz Callaway/ Major Engagement/ The Metropolitan Room
Elaine Stritch/Extraordinary Cabaret Artist
Danielle Grabianowski/Ira Eaker Special Achievement Award/ The Metropolitan Room, Don't Tell Mama
Michael Feinstein ASCAP Great American Songbook Award for Duo Shows/ Feinstein's at Loews Regency
Cheyenne Jackson ASCAP Great American Songbook Award for Duo Shows/ Feinstein's at Loews Regency
The Salon/Special Award/Created and hosted by Mark Janas / The Algonquin Hotel
Julie Reyburn/Recording, Live at Feinstein's
Paul Trueblood The Bistro Silver Anniversary Awards For Ongoing Artistic Accomplishment
Ronny Whyte The Bistro Silver Anniversary Awards For Ongoing Artistic Accomplishment
Tovah Feldshuh The Bistro Silver Anniversary Awards For Ongoing Artistic Accomplishment
Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words, created by Eugene Pack/ Comedy Series/ The Triad
Peter Napolitano/BMI Award for Director
Mitzi Gaynor/Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award
The Concerts at Tudor City Greens/Special Award/Created and produced by Raissa Katona Bennett
Lee Summers/Entertainer/The Triad
Richard Eisenberg/"Two Again"/Special Material
Sarah Rice, Screen Gems - Songs of Old Hollywood/ Theme Show/ Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café
Anne Steele/Vocalist/ The Metropolitan Room
I've Got a Little Twist, conceived, written, and directed by David Auxier, musical direction and arrangements by Mark York, produced by Albert Bergeret/ Special Award/ The Triad, Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café
Gretchen Reinhagen, Special Kaye: A Tribute to the Incomparable Kaye Ballard/ Tribute Show/ The Metropolitan Room
The following artists were unable to attend:
Christine Ebersole ASCAP Great American Songbook Award for Duo Shows/ Feinstein's at Loews Regency
David Hyde Pierce ASCAP Great American Songbook Award for Duo Shows/ Feinstein's at Loews Regency
Nicole Henry/Jazz Vocalist/ The Metropolitan RoomFor complete info about the reviewer, please go to www.thekingofbroadway.com