André De Shields, a two-time Tony nominee, Drama Desk nominee, Emmy winner and multi-Audelco Award and Outer Critics Circle Award winner and internationally acclaimed jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan are among the artists who will be honored at the 33rd Annual Bistro Awards Gala on Monday, March 12 at 6:30 pm at Gotham Comedy Club, 208 W. 23rd St. As is the Bistro Award tradition, the evening will feature performances by all of the winners.
Mr. De Shields is receiving the Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award, the Bistro Awards’ highest honor, for his five decades of stage and nightclub accomplishments. The actor-singer-dancer-choreographer made his mark on Broadway in the title role of The Wiz, which was followed by the long-running Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stardust: The Mitchell Parish Musical, Play On!, and The Full Monty.
He embraced cabaret early on. Beginning in the ’70s, he created a string of original shows that performed at such landmark New York clubs as Gypsy’s, the Grand Finale, Reno Sweeney, Les Mouches, the Club at La MaMa, the Horn of Plenty, Greene Street, as well as in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London. In 1984, he co-wrote, choreographed, co-directed, and starred in the Broadway musical revue Andre De Shields’ Haarlem Nocturne. More recent appearances have included Joe’s Pub and the Laurie Beechman Theatre.
Tony award-winning choreographer George Faison (The Wiz) will be on hand to present the award to Mr. De Shields.
Because of her lifelong dedication to music as a unique and influential jazz vocalist, interpreter, songwriter, teacher, and mentor, Ms. Jordan is being honored for Outstanding Contributions to the Art of Jazz. Legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker, a great influence on her, would introduce her as “the singer with the million dollar ears.” Her trademarks are her uncompromising style, her ability to improvise lyrics, and unexpected sweeping changes of pitch. Her preference for bass and voice led to her collaboration with bassist Cameron Brown, with whom she has been touring internationally for over 20 years. She is a recipient of a 2012 NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, and is the subject of Jazz Child: A Portrait of Sheila Jordan by Ellen Johnson, which was described by the Huffington Post as a “truly American success story.”
A New York cabaret artist since the ’70s, Marta Sanders is being recognized for her Consummate Cabaret Artistry. Acclaimed early in her career, her artistry has grown thrillingly since then, and now her performances can be viewed as master classes in the art of song interpretation.
Blues singer Shemekia Copeland is the recipient of the Bistro’s first Producer’s Award. Daughter of blues guitarist-singer Johnny Copeland, she displays a powerful, gutsy voice that can also be soft and sultry, and has an uncanny ability to connect to her audience with both songs and stories.
This year’s Ira Eaker Special Achievement Award—given to an outstanding performer on the rise and named after Back Stage’s co-founder, co-publisher, and first nightclub critic—goes to Mary Sue Daniels, who made her New York cabaret debut with a show that charmingly captures her growing-up years in Montana through her straightforward, persuasive delivery of personal anecdotes and an impeccable selection of songs.
The multi-Bistro Award-winning singer Jeff Harnar this year gets the nod as Outstanding Director for his ability to shape shows that score solidly as entertainments while at the same time doing justice to the performers’ expression of emotion and exploration of character.
Lisa Yaeger is being acknowledged as Outstanding Vocalist not only for her impressive vocal ability, but also for the subtlety of her interpretations and for being able to handle a diversity of musical genres with natural ease.
Recipient of our Outstanding Singer-Instrumentalist Award, Rachelle Garniez plays accordion, guitar, bells, and piano, sometimes making them sound like extensions of her own similarly versatile voice, and her original songs are as fresh and delightful as are her performances.
The Bistro’s Outstanding Instrumentalists Award is being presented to twin brothers who will surely knock your socks off when you hear them playing either jazz saxophone or clarinet. Peter and Will Anderson bring a fresh perspective to classic jazz and have performed extensively with some of the top jazz musicians at some of the top jazz venues in the country.
Salty Brine is one of the most unique artists the Committee has ever seen. The show he wrote and performed in 2017 was in part a discussion of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, in part a performance of the songs on a Harry Nilsson album, and in part a recollection of Salty’s youthful experiences at a boys’ camp–all woven together to create an unforgettable cabaret/theatrical experience. The Bistros are recognizing his talent with an Award for Creative Artistry.
The theme of Amy Beth Williams’s show Carried Away is war, and while the enterprise contains a number of songs related to armed combat, she takes a far broader view of the conflicts between people; the result is a vibrant tapestry of human experience, which is being honored as Outstanding Theme show.
Songwriters were the focus of two shows that caught the Bistro Committee’s attention. Thank You for Your Love: Our Celebration of Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt is being honored as Outstanding Tribute Show. Starring Carole Demas and Sarah Rice (both of whom played Luisa in the original production of The Fantasticks), directed by Charles Repole, and with accompaniment by musical director Joe Goodrich on piano and Maria Banks on harp and illuminating projections by producer Stuart J. Allyn, it is rich with marvelous singing, trenchant song interpretations, and a great deal of heart. And the songwriting team of Ben Schaechter and Dan Kael wrote It Helps to Sing About It, the Bistro Awards’ pick for Outstanding Revue. Under the savvy guidance of director Sara Louise Lazarus, this smart, joyous entertainment puts one in mind of the golden time when sparkling revues of original material were a staple of the theatre and club scene.
In his A Life Behind Bars, being honored as Outstanding Solo Play, writer-actor Dan Ruthdelivers a compelling story in a funny, heartfelt, and at times touching account of his struggles to make it as an actor in New York by tending bar. To top it off, he brilliantly plays all the crazy and mad characters he meets along the way.
Finally, making an Outstanding New York Debut with her show Significant Others, Katie McGrath relates her personal story through words and songs that flow seamlessly and winningly together.
For the sixth year in a row, Shellen Lubin is directing the Bistro Awards evening. A theatre director, playwright, songwriter, and vocal and acting coach, Shellen is also in the forefront of attaining parity for women in the arts.
The gala event will be held on Monday, March 12 at 6:30 pm at Gotham Comedy Club. 208 W. 23rd Street. Sherry Eaker, the former longtime Editor-in Chief of Back Stage and the producer of the event since its inception, heads up the Awards Committee that includes BistroAwards.com critics Gerry Geddes, Roy Sander, Robert Windeler, and Mark Dundas Wood. Sander is also the award show’s associate producer; Wendy Lane Bailey is the assistant producer.
Premium Tickets are $150.00; General Admission tickets are $80.00. Ticket-buyers in both categories are invited to the “After-Bistros” party as guests of the Bistros. For details about the various ticket categories and early purchase prices, visit www.BistroAwards.com.
For additional information, call Sherry Eaker at 917-239-5467.
Following is a complete list of the winners who are being recognized for their outstanding work:
André De Shields / Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award
Sheila Jordan / Outstanding Contributions to the Art of Jazz
Marta Sanders / Consummate Cabaret Artistry
Shemekia Copeland / Producer’s Award
Mary Sue Daniels/ Ira Eaker Special Achievement Award
Jeff Harnar / Director
Lisa Yaeger / Vocalist
Rachelle Garniez / Singer – Instrumentalist
Peter and Will Anderson / Instrumentalists
Salty Brine / Creative Artistry
Amy Beth Williams / Theme Show – Carried Away
Thank You for Your Love: Our Celebration of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt / Tribute Show – Carole Demas, Sarah Rice, Charles Repole, Joe Goodrich, Maria Banks, Stuart J. Allyn
It Helps to Sing About It: The Songs of Ben Schaechter & Dan Kael / Revue – Ben Schaechter, Dan Kael, Sara Louise Lazarus
Dan Ruth / Solo Play – A Life Behind Bars
Katie McGrath / New York Debut
The BISTRO AWARDS has been recognizing, encouraging, nurturing, and educating cabaret, jazz and comedy artists for 33 years through its insightful reviews and annual awards. It is the oldest award of its kind in the industry. It was established by Bob Harrington in 1985 in his “Bistro Bits” column in the trade weekly Back Stage, then under the editorship of Sherry Eaker. For the first few years, the awards were merely listed in Harrington’s column as notable performances he had seen during the calendar year. The first formal presentation of the awards was held in 1990 at Eighty Eight’s, a popular cabaret venue in the West Village. From there, the show moved on to The Ballroom in Chelsea, and then relocated to the Supper Club in the Broadway District, where it remained for many years. This year marks the 12th year at Gotham Comedy Club.
The guidelines that Harrington set up for himself to determine the first winners have become the basic philosophy behind the Bistro Awards, which recognize achievement in a wide variety of categories — from outstanding performances to outstanding contributions by members of the cabaret community. The object is not to choose the “best” of anything of the year, but to recognize and congratulate the accomplishments of those who have done something special. Accordingly, categories can easily be created from year to year as they best fit the year’s distinguished work.
Some of the Bistro’s special honorees have included Darlene Love (2017), Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross (2016), Ben Vereen (2014); Lainie Kazan and Maurice Hines (2013); Kaye Ballard, Melissa Manchester, and Dee Dee Bridgewater (2012); Dionne Warwick and Carol Channing (2011); Mitzi Gaynor and Elaine Stritch (2010); Charles Aznavour and Liza Minnelli (2009); Marilyn Maye (2008); Betty Buckley (2007); Steve Ross (2006); as well as Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, Bobby Short, Eartha Kitt, Barbara Cook, and many others.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com